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Running 101 km in 24 min—only computer scientists can do that


On Friday, August 24th, for the first time a team of the Leibniz Center for Informatics (LZI – Schloss Dagstuhl) participated in a road footrace.

The mixed team (Dagmar Glaser, Moritz Thern, Michael Didas) was ranked 98th out of 228 in the “1. IKK Südwest Firmenlauf” company challenge in St.Wendel.

But how is it possible to run 101 km in 24 min? It’s not a problem for computer scientists—computers function on a binary basis, only with zeroes and ones. If a distance of five kilometers is written as a binary number, it is represented as “101”. This binary number has to be read as 1 times four plus 0 times two plus 1 times one. Using decimal numbers, which are the ones we usually come across in our everyday lives, but which need eight more numerals, twenty-four is written as “24”—a representation to be read as 2 times ten plus 4 times one.

Modern binary numbers, which, as the foundation of digital electronics, are a base of our modern world, were discovered by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz more than 300 years ago. In 1697 he wrote a letter to Rudolf August, Duke of Brunswick, describing the representation of numbers using only zeroes and ones. He added religious thoughts to his mathematical explanations, and summed them up with the statement: “Omnibus ex nihilo ducendis sufficit unum.”

pdf of the press release

The included picture may be used free of charge for the purpose of publishing articles based on this press release, if the author of the picture is named. All other rights are reserved by the author of the picture.

The road footracing team of the Leibniz center for Informatics. From left: Moritz Thern, Dagmar Glaser and Michael Didas. (Picture: Schloss Dagstuhl)