Cryptic Ad Weeds Out Weaklings

Want a high-paying, challenging high-tech job? An ad on the Boston subway might be some help.

Commuters have been scratching their heads for a few days at a strange advertisement at the Harvard Square stop (search) in Cambridge, Mass., reports National Public Radio's Web site.

The black text, surrounded by empty white space, reads: "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com."

There is no other text on the ad, or any other sort of identification.

The same ad has popped up on a billboard along Highway 101 in California's Silicon Valley (search), reports

It's gibberish to most people, but mathematicians know that e is an irrational number (i.e., not an integer like 5 or a fraction like 3/8) that is the basis of the natural systems of logarithms.

Its value corresponds to roughly 2.71828, though an accurate decimal representation would go on infinitely.

A prime number is an integer that can be divided only by itself and 1. The first 10 prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23 and 29, but again, they go on forever.

The ad is asking for the value of the first 10-digit prime number that appears in the decimal value of e.

It's safe to assume few people would know what that is, or even how to determine it, but it's also a good bet that many of those people would be in the geek ghettoes of greater Boston or the Bay Area.

Whoever figures it out needs to plug it into a Web browser and add ".com," at which point he'll be directed to a site that poses yet another mathematical challenge.

The reward for the select few who make it through the higher-math boot camp? An invitation to send a resume to Google, possibly Silicon Valley's most discerning employer, which just completed an initial stock offering that raised about $1.6 billion. A job there would truly be nerd heaven.

Patriotic Dog Drives Off in Truck

WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory (AP) — An exuberant dog left in a truck while the owner watched Canada win the World Cup of Hockey (search) managed to throw the vehicle into gear and coast down a city hill.

A man out for a walk called police after seeing the vehicle coast by with a black Labrador retriever behind the wheel.

Police arrived to find the truck in the middle of a road, blocking traffic, with the dog still at the wheel. No one was injured and there was no damage.

Going door-to-door, police managed to track down the owner.

"Subsequent investigation indicates that the dog was celebrating the Canadian victory in the world hockey game and knocked the truck into gear, causing it to roll down the hill," Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police (search) said Wednesday in a firmly tongue-in-cheek news release.

"No word yet on how the dog is doing studying the rules for negotiating the new traffic circle."

Pricey Diners Take a Bath

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — They came to dine at an expensive restaurant along the normally calm harbor in Hamburg. Instead, they got soaked.

About 50 patrons at the Strandperle (search) ("Beach Pearl") restaurant briefly found themselves up to their waists in water Wednesday evening when a 640-foot-long cargo ship entered the harbor at high tide, creating a giant wave that inundated the chic eatery, the Hamburg coast guard said Thursday.

None of the patrons suffered injuries, although restaurant-goers' pants legs were soaked through, police said.

However, authorities were investigating the captain of the Italian ship "Grand America," which had overtaken another ship before it entered the harbor — a maneuver that brought it close to the restaurant, police said.

Man Returns $15,000 Check

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Jeff Datwyler thought he was just being conscientious about litter when he stopped to pick up a stray envelope on the streets of Salem.

But then Datwyler, Salem's urban design coordinator, opened up the envelope — and found a check for $15,000.

"I thought, 'Man, this is unreal,'" Datwyler said. "I knew someone would be missing it big time."

The check was drawn from Datwyler's own bank, the Oregon Territory Federal Credit Union (search), so he headed straight there.

The bank staff figured out the check belonged to retiree William H. Goods, a Salem resident.

At that exact moment, Goods was at another bank preparing to deposit his $15,000 check there, not knowing it was missing.

"I got a call from the credit union saying they'd found it," Goods said. "It happened simultaneously. Just as I was reaching for it from my pocket, the phone rang."

Goods said he is grateful that the check was returned.

"I'm sure thankful there are honest people," he said.

Man Does Best to Squash Crime

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Rick Fisk took crime sitting down. Or at least he sat on a would-be thief until authorities arrived.

Fisk, 52, came home Tuesday morning to find a woman standing in his foyer, police said.

Julie Dye, 34, who was holding items from the house, fled when she saw the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Fisk, police said.

Fisk ran after Dye, tackled her in the front yard and sat on her.

"When they don't want to go to jail, they are a handful," Fisk said. "I told her, 'Just relax, it's the first step to get your life together.'"

Fisk's phone was out of reach so he sat on Dye and yelled for help.

After 20 minutes, a neighbor heard him yelling and called 911.

Dye was charged with second-degree burglary. She also was charged with third-degree theft for a Sept. 2 incident in which police say she stole money from someone.

She was being held Wednesday on $19,500 bail.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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