There is something about the definitions of prime and perfect numbers that always struck me as rather odd. Prime numbers are those which no factors other than themselves, and one. Perfect numbers, on the other hand, equal the sum of all of their factors, excluding themselves, but including one. The first two examples of perfect numbers are 6 (which equals 1 + 2 + 3) and 28 (which equals 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14). Perfect numbers are far more rare than primes.

The thing I find annoying is the exclusion of one, as a factor, from one of these definitions, but not the other. I therefore decided to give a name to a new type of number: one which equals the sum of its factors, excluding itself AND the number one. The first name I thought of, “exceptional numbers,” turns out to have already been taken, so I thought of another, and called these numbers “paraperfect numbers” instead.

Having done that, it was time to start searching for them. I have a reasonably fast mental calculator, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t up to this task, so I wrote this program to search for paraperfect numbers:

It’s written in BASIC, an archaic computer language I learned in high school, and, as you can see, I am a horribly sloppy programmer. A better programmer would have written a program for the same purpose, but with only about half this length. Be that as it may, though, the program does work. I’ve had it running for a few minutes now.

It’s gotten past 22,000 — and has found no paraperfect numbers at all. This is not what I expected . . . and now I am wondering if any exist. Right now, of course, “no paraperfect numbers exist” is a mere conjecture. If I can prove it, it will be a theorem. However, I don’t know nearly enough about number theory to write such a proof.

I could use some help. If anyone does find a paraperfect number, please leave a comment on this post identifying your find. If anyone can prove — or simply explain to me — why there are no paraperfect numbers, if that is the case, please let me know that as well.

The program is still running, and has now passed 25,000 without a paraperfect-number find. I guess I’ll leave it running for a while. Any help with this puzzle would be much appreciated.

[Later: see the comments for the rest of the story on these elusive numbers.]

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28 (which equals 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14)

1, 2, 2 x 2, 7, 2 x 7

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28 is perfect, though — not “paraperfect.” It turns out (as one of my Facebook-friends told me) that these are actually called quasiperfect — and none have been found under 10^35, although no one knows — yet — if any larger ones exist.

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