Newly Discovered Prime Number Has a Record 22 Million Digits

15 January 2016

The highest known prime number so far has been calculated, and it is much, much larger than the previous prime number that was known. Almost 5 million digits larger. The previous highest prime number was found out to be one subtracted from 2 to the power of 57885161 on the 25th of January 2013. It was calculated by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) and the number had 17,425,170 digits.

Why is it such a big deal

Mathematics ProgramPrime 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!

Mathematics ProgramGIMPS 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!

Read 36769 times Last modified on Saturday, 30 January 2016 04:29
Dr. Li

Executive Director, Ardent Academy for Gifted Youth; Co-President, OCSEF.