Published: Mon, January 08, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Maths fan discovers largest known prime number

Maths fan discovers largest known prime number

The largest ever prime number, which is a whopping 23,249,425 digits long, has just been discovered.

Chris Caldwell (Chris Caldwell), one of the leaders of the project GIMPS, surprised that the new record high Prime number was found so soon.

However, it is the result you get if you multiply the number 2 by itself 77,232,917 times, and then subtract 1 from it.

This number is nearly 1 million digits larger than the previous known largest prime number.

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The discovery was made by Jonathan Pace, an engineer employed at Fedex and a volunteer with the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a collaborative project in which volunteers run software on their personal computers. Pace had been hunting for primes for 14 years.

Even the formula for finding Mersenne prime numbers - named after the 17th century French monk who studied them, Marin Mersenne - isn't a surefire method, it's simply a method for narrowing down a more likely place to find them. Called the M77232917, the new prime number belongs to the special group, the Mersenne prime numbers, and is the 50 Mersenne prime to have been discovered. For instance, the first Mersenne prime is 3 (2x2-1), the next is 7 (2x2x2-1), after that is 31 (2x2x2x2x2-1) and so on. The first person to find this elusive number will be awarded $US150,000 ($191,107) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

M77232917 is certainly not the largest prime number.

The primality proof for the new prime number took six days of non-stop computing. "To prove there were no errors in the prime discovery process, the new prime was independently verified using four different programs on four different hardware configurations".

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The number is said to stretch over 73 miles at five digits to an inch, almost three miles longer than the previous record-holder, Gizmodo reported. And as you go on to counting, the difference between two prime numbers continues to increase.

A prime number is a number that is divisible only by itself and one. GIMPS founder George Woltman who wrote the software, Scott Kurowski who created the PrimeNet system software that coordinates GIMPS computers, current PrimeNet administrator Aaron Blosser and thousands of GIMPS volunteers are acknowledged in the discovery.

The last few Mersenne primes have been closer to each other than the researchers expected, he said. While there are applications for smaller prime numbers, Caldwell explained that the larger ones fill a different need.

And if you like, you can download M77232917 here.

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