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Year 2016 have started off quite well especially for mathematics. It turns out that a computer in Missouri has discovered the largest known prime number ever seen by human beings. The prime number that was discovered is actually 274,207,281– 1. This is found to be nearly 22 million digits long. This implies that this number is nearly 5 million digits longer than the previous record-holder prime number. In case you are a math enthusiast, you would probably fancy prime numbers. By principle, they are divisible by one or themselves. In addition, they can make interesting patterns like Ulam spiral.
Prime numbers have even been recently employed in testing the power of computers. Apparently, there is nothing like the highest prime number in this world. However, the battle to look for the prime number which is bigger than the rest is taken quite seriously. That explains why a mathematician from University of Central Missouri named Curtis Cooper managed to bag a whopping US$100,000 for finding out the highest prime number in January 2013. Mersenne primes is a rare group that the new record breaking prime number is part of. This implies that one can write it as one less than the power of two. To put it into perspective, merely 49 Mersenne primes are known to exist.
The recently discovered prime number is said to be expressed as two raised to the power of 74,207,281 minus one. The discovery was a constituent of Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search which is a project which brought together many computers across the globe. The purpose of the project was to look for prime numbers, ofcourse. Alex Bellos from The Guardian mentioned that it is not only one of the most unfortunate acronym ‘GIMPS’ but also the longest continuously running distributed computing project.
Cooper managed the latest discovery as well back in September, 2015. However, this was not noticed before last year. In a way it is ironic given the fact that this hunt for prime numbers is a way of testing computer power for many people. GIMPS press release mentions that the prime numbers are essential for the purpose of cryptography but the recently discovered prime number is so large that it can not be of practical value as of now. Still, this hunt for prime number will yield many practical advantages for the entire world.
“Historically, searching for Mersenne primes has been used as a test for computer hardware. Earlier this month, GIMPS’s prime95 software and members of a German computing community uncovered a flaw in Intel’s latest Skylake CPUs. Prime95 has also discovered hardware problems in many individual’s PCs.” Now Cooper is already aiming for a $150,000 award.