briefs: Your number's up

Your number's up

Dave Fitch from the department of geography at the University of Edinburgh e-mails us urgently: last week's information about a bug in Microsoft Excel is only partly correct, he says. "If you type the number [1.40737488355328] into Excel on a PC, you do indeed get 0.64. But if you type the same number into an Excel spreadsheet on a Macintosh, you get 1.28 instead. Impressive eh?"

We were certainly impressed. Microsoft says there are three such sequences of 15 digits that produce erroneous answers, and that this has been the case since Excel Version 3. There is a free software patch available from Microsoft's various electronic sites on Compuserve (GO MICROSOFT) and the World Wide Web (http://www.

There has been no official reason for the fault. Perhaps it is a means of copyrighting the program, just like putting intentional spelling errors in dictionaries.