Germantown man discovers largest prime number known to man

GIMPS crack whip on plucky processor to find largest prime number

On Wednesday, it was announced that the new, longest known prime number had been discovered, according to New Scientist.

Mersenne primes are a group of prime numbers named for the French monk Marin Mersenne, who studied the numbers more than three centuries ago.

And he finally found it in all its 23-million-digit glory after 14 years.

At over 23 million digits long, the new number has been given the name M77232917 for short. "You don't expect to find two so close to one another".

Many wondrous finds are tangible: You can pluck a bottle from the waves or brush soil from a pottery sherd in the ground.

It is calculated by raising the number 2 to the 77,232,917th power, and then subtracting 1.

Over the last few several decades, advances in computing have pushed the length of prime numbers hard, much to the relief of the world's stockpile of pencils and scratch paper.

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It is almost one million digits longer than the previous record holder, which was identified as part of the same project at the beginning of 2016.

Our new friend M77232917 was discovered by a computer owned by Jonathan Pace, an electrical engineer who volunteered to run a program designed by the by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, an organization expressly dedicated to harnessing as much computational might as possible to root out ever-larger Mersenne primes (as well as slightly smaller ones that may have been overlooked). The GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) worldwide research team then used four computers of other volunteers to confirm the result.

Nevertheless, the new prime has to be verified using four different computer programs on four different computers.

Pace, a long-time maths enthusiast and a current employee at FedEx, does charity work as a SysAdmin, running Prime95 on all his PCs and servers; Pace is one of thousands of volunteers who are using free GIMPS software in the effort to continually find larger and larger prime numbers.

There's a $3,000 cash award for the discovery. The numbers seem to occur sporadically because researchers don't fully understand the pattern they follow, said Chris Caldwell, a professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Credit for this prime goes not only to Pace, but also the thousands of GIMPS volunteers that sifted through millions of non-prime candidates, GIMPS said in a statement.

The first numbers, among others, are used in cryptography, that is mathematics that ensures security of transactions and contacts over the Internet.

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