Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
On January 7th, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) project announced the discovery of the new largest known prime number, having 22 338 618 digits. Dr. Curtis Cooper, a volunteer that participate in GIMPS program, used one of his university's computers to pinpoint a new prime.
The new prime number, also known as M74207281, is written as 274 207 281 - 1. It is 49th Mersenne prime number, almost 5 million digits larger than the previous record holder. Mersenne primes were named for the French monk Marin Mersenne, who more than 350 years ago studied numbers of the form of 2p-1. The Mersenne prime is the 2p-1 number, where p is also a prime number. Interestingly, Mersenne numbers define also a perfect numbers, whose proper divisors add up to the number itself [N = 2p-1(2p-1)]. GIMPS, founded in 1996, has discovered all 15 of the largest known Mersenne primes.
To prove there were no errors in the prime discovery process, the new prime was independently verified using both different software and hardware. Testing procedure took about a month of non-stop computing on a PC with an Intel I7-4790 CPU.
Credit for GIMPS prime discovery goes not only to Dr. Cooper for running the GIMPS software on his university's computers, George Woltman, Scott Kurowski, and Aaron Blosser for authoring the software and running the project, but also the thousands of GIMPS volunteers that sifted through millions of non-prime candidates. Therefore, official credit for this discovery shall go to "C. Cooper, G. Woltman, S. Kurowski, A. Blosser, et al."
But how can serve such discoveries to mankind? We can quote here Enrique Gracian, who wrote that the prime numbers are "the cornerstone of data security systems". Unfortunately, despite our fascination with the new discovery, we are not able to dispel your doubts about how new, the world's largest prime number will contribute to the further development of our species, but still we keep our fingers crossed for the next large primes. :)Source: Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search project website.Image credits: Stuart Miles