A 42-digit-long number that mathematicians have been hunting for decades, thanks to its sheer difficulty to calculate, has suddenly been found by two separate groups at the same time. This ninth Dedekind number, as it is known, may be the last in the sequence that is feasible to discover.

Dedekind numbers describe the number of ways a set of logical operations can be combined. For sets of just two or three elements, the total number …