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What Number Comes Next? Ask the Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

The New York Times [free link] “This year the “mathematical equivalent to the FBI’s voluminous fingerprint files” enters its 50th year, with 362,765 entries (and counting)…This year the OEIS, which has been praised as “the master index to mathematics” and “a mathematical equivalent to the FBI’s voluminous fingerprint files,” celebrates its 50th anniversary. The original collection, “A Handbook of Integer Sequences,” appeared in 1973 and contained 2,372 entries. In 1995, it became an “encyclopedia,” with 5,487 sequences and an additional author, Simon Plouffe, a mathematician in Quebec. A year later, the collection had doubled in size again, so Dr. Sloane put it on the internet. “In a sense, every sequence is a puzzle,” Dr. Sloane said in a recent interview. He added that the puzzle aspect is incidental to the database’s main purpose: to organize all mathematical knowledge. Sequences found in the wild — in mathematics, but also quantum physics, genetics, communications, astronomy and elsewhere — can be puzzling for numerous reasons. Looking up these entities in the OEIS, or adding them to the database, sometimes leads to enlightenment and discovery…”

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