The difference between mathematics and engineering

2 Jan 2015

Numbers that fool the Fermat test are called Carmichael numbers, and little is known about them other than that they are extremely rare. There are 255 Carmichael numbers below 100,000,000. The smallest few are 561, 1105, 1729, 2465, 2821, and 6601. In testing primality of very large numbers chosen at random, the chance of stumbling upon a value that fools the Fermat test is less than the chance that cosmic radiation will cause the computer to make an error in carrying out a ``correct’’ algorithm. Considering an algorithm to be inadequate for the first reason but not for the second illustrates the difference between mathematics and engineering.
— Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.