Why is it such a big deal
Prime numbers are only divisible by 1 and themselves and mathematicians presume that they are infinite. Simple prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and so on, but it is observed that the higher you go, the possibility of finding a prime number reduces. Prime numbers are important because they are considered to be the building blocks of every number in the number line. They have applications in modern cryptography and telecommunications, but the quest for finding the largest prime number is more about a passion for mathematics than looking for a practical application!
How the new prime number was found
The GIMPS project requires volunteers to provide processing power. This time Curtis Cooper, a member of the University of Central Missouri, volunteered his computer to use the software designed by the founder of GIMPS, George Woltman. The computer uses an Intel I7 processor, and it took around 31 days to find the new prime number. Aaron Blosser and Scott Kurowski from GIMPS shares credit with Cooper for the discovery of the new number
What is special about the number
The newly discovered prime number is 22 million digits long and it takes around 127 days simply to pronounce it. The figure is famous not only for its sheer size, but also because it is a Mersenne prime, which means that it is one less than a power of two. This kind of prime numbers were first studied in the 17th century by Marin Mersenne, a Jesuit scholar. Out of all the prime numbers known to us, only 49 of them are Mersenne primes, and GIMPS are credited with the discovery of 16 of them.
You can do it too!
GIMPS hopes to now find a 100 million digit prime number, and the first mathematician to do so will receive a prize of a staggering $150000! If you are passionate about finding the next prime number, and you have some processing power to spare, visit the GIMPS website to find out how you can contribute to the search. You may even go down in history as the finder of the largest prime number ever!