Hooray for Math! The Largest Prime Number Yet Discovered

Paul_Lilly

You'll often hear enthusiasts describe an overclock as being Prime stable, meaning the system is able to pass the Prime95 stress test for an extended length of time without any errors. But even though it's become a common a torture test, Prime95 was designed primarily as part of a bigger project - the pursuit of prime numbers.

Today the distributed computing project called GIMPS, or Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, has confirmed it has discovered the largest prime number ever at almost 13 million digits long. The number in question is 2 43,112,609 -1, or listed out in millions of digits is, well, let's not do that. The discovery means the project can now claim a $100,000 bounty offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was offered to the first to find a prime number in excess of 10 million digits.

Fun fact: Only 45 Mersenne primes have ever been found, with the GIMPS project responsible for 12 of them. A Mersenne prime is one that can take the form of 2 n -1 rather than writing out all the digits.

Fun fact 2: The prime number in question was discovered by a UCLA computer, with the GIMPS software installed and maintained by Edson Smith. Don't be surprised to see this appear in a future edition of Trivial Pursuit .

Image Credit: ScienceNews/Avik Nandy

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