Newly Discovered Largest Prime Number Could Fill Up 9,000 Pages!

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Photo Credit: Phys.org

On January 4, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a group of volunteers who use freely available software to search for Mersenne prime numbers, announced the discovery of a new “largest known prime number.” For those that need a refresher, a prime number is a positive integer that can only be divided by itself and 1. Since they follow no set pattern, the numbers are hard to discover, which is probably why mathematicians are continually challenging themselves to find the next big one.

The recent discovery comprises a staggering 23,249,425 million digits. According to GIMPS, the number is big enough to fill an entire shelf of books, totaling 9,000 pages. The team asserts “If every second you were to write five digits to an inch then 54 days later you’d have a number stretching over 73 miles (118 kilometers) long.”

Partial view of M77232917 (Image Credit: marsenne.org via twitter)

Nicknamed M77232917 (because the prime number is 277,232,917 − 1), it is the 50th Mersenne prime and the 16th discovered by GIMPS since the collaborative computer project began in 1996. The particular class of rare prime numbers is named after 17th-century French polymath Marin Mersenne, who came up with a way to derive prime numbers using a simple equation: 2n – 1 (n being a prime number).

Mersenne primes (Image credit: NPR.org)

The discovery, which is larger than the previous record holder by almost a million digits, can be credited to Jonathan Pace. It took the FedEx engineer, who has been searching for big primes for 14 years, six days of non-stop computing to find M77232917. To test if his calculations were accurate, the number was independently confirmed by four different programs running on different hardware configurations.

Though the incessant quest for an increasingly large prime number may seem frivolous, they do come in handy for use in computer encryption to protect important data from hackers. But since the current software uses prime numbers that are hundreds of digits long, not millions, M77232917 will not be needed anytime soon. However, its discovery has earned Pace $3,000, and, more importantly, elevated his status among math lovers, at least until the next largest prime number is found. Given that the genius who uncovers a prime number with 100 million digits will get both fame and $150,000 from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the competition to discover the next record-breaking prime number can only increase.

Resources: newscientist.com,bbc.co.uk, gizmondo.com

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394 Comments
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  • roboUniThursday, August 16, 2018 at 7:19 pm
    That’s a lot of numbers. Or an extremely big number. Either one, WOW. 😅
    • CoolgirlTuesday, May 29, 2018 at 1:26 pm
      Wow that johnathon pace guy must be smart
      • sportschick
        sportschickTuesday, May 15, 2018 at 8:40 am
        um that's a lot of numbers well i guess i could say number
        • Hats off to youThursday, May 3, 2018 at 5:37 pm
          Well, I can say one thing... *Look at my username*
          • cowboyup2
            cowboyup2Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 1:44 pm
            This person put a lot of hard work into this!!!!
            • PrimeoWednesday, May 2, 2018 at 11:32 am
              SOO COOL!
              • angelWednesday, May 2, 2018 at 5:40 am
                infinity is only an amount not a number
                • joshMonday, April 30, 2018 at 6:06 am
                  wow is that even a number \
                  • nameTuesday, April 24, 2018 at 11:27 am
                    it is not prime because it ends in a 5.
                    • arcticwolfie
                      arcticwolfieSaturday, April 14, 2018 at 4:26 pm
                      so many numbers cool

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