Google Loses Nortel Auction In Nerdy Style

Pity poor Google. The only major technology company with a number for a name spent last week bidding for a set of patents from Nortel, the bankrupt Canadian telecom company. According to Reuters, Google's only bid that wasn't unusual was its $900 million stalking-horse bid. Then came $1.902160540 billion (which is a number very close to Brun's constant, the sum of the reciprocals of all twin primes), followed by $2,614,972,128 (a multiple of the Meissel-Mertens constant, and trust us, you don't want to hear what that represents), and then pi billion.

Opinions are split over whether Google was being seriously nerdy with its bids or just running up the final price with bids that were part of an elaborate mathematical prank. The oddball bids clearly annoyed the sober Wall Street types closely following the bidding, and in the end it was a coalition of Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Ericsson, EMC and Sony that paid $4.5 billion for the patents after Google dropped out. Too bad—if only Google had bid the first Feigenbaum constant, it might have walked away the winner.