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github.com
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1. 16

Lots of “jokes” here but read the Aaronson piece if you haven’t, it’s fun and informative. https://www.scottaaronson.com/writings/bignumbers.html

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Thanks for the tip, that was a charming piece of writing.

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Unfortunately there is little if any documentation provided with the actual numbers, so it’s of little help if you aren’t already familiar with the mathematics involved. I can follow along for the contenders in the graveyard, but the current number is opaque to me.

1. 3

The numbers are formally defined, eliminating any possibility of any ambiguity. What possibly more “documentation” could you want? What would be the point? Document what exactly?

Even with regular code, the point of documentation is to explain the why, not the how, or to help with using the thing.

In this case the why is implied, and you are not supposed to “use” the thing in any meaningful way. All that remains is the how, which is described by the formal code.

1. 6

What would be the point? To explain what’s going on to an outsider, of course. That’s what documentation is generally for. Ambiguity isn’t the issue; familiarity is. For example, I see that the prior contender was using the Ackermann function, but I could only draw that conclusion because I already know of the Ackermann function, and could recognize it from the name “ack” and the shape of the definition. For someone who hasn’t heard of it, it would be nice if there had been, say, a link to the wikipedia page, or even just the full name “Ackermann” appearing once in a comment. Then those of us who aren’t already familiar with this stuff would have a jumping-off point in which to learn about something new.

I understand that that isn’t the primary goal of the site, which is why I described it as being “unfortunate” rather than an actual flaw or shortcoming.

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I just thought this was funny. The numbers are basically variations on the output of Ackermann functions, so while we can prove one is bigger than the previous one, and in principle write a program to compute it (that may take centuries to run), it’s difficult to say how many digits or what order of magnitude the actual number is. Just very, very big.

For example A(4,3) is on the order of 10^10^20000, and one of the previous winners is A(4,42) which is a whole lot bigger than that.

Also at one point the biggest number was 7 (due to a bug).

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Whatever you can think of, plus one.

7. -1

My Grandson says it is 18.

1. 1

To be fair, 18 is bigger than most numbers… :)

1. 2

That’s numberwang!