Friday, January 5, 2018

In Its Prime

What do you get when you take 2 to the power of 77,232,917 and subtract one?

The largest prime number ever discovered.
The number belongs to a rare group of so-called Mersenne prime numbers, named after the 17th century French monk Marin Mersenne. Like any prime number, a Mersenne prime is divisible only by itself and one, but is derived by multiplying twos together over and over before taking away one. The previous record-holding number was the 49th Mersenne prime ever found, making the new one the 50th.
And just like the Psychological Science Accelerator I blogged about earlier today, it's the product of teamwork:
The new prime number was originally found on Boxing Day by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps) collaboration which harnesses the number-crunching power of volunteers’ computers all over the world. In the days after, four more computers sporting different hardware and software were set the task of verifying the discovery. Those computers confirmed the result, taking between 34 and 82 hours each.

To find M77232917 in the first place took six full days of nonstop computing on a PC owned by Jonathan Pace, a 51-year old electrical engineer from Germantown, Tennessee. It is the first prime that Pace’s computer has churned out in 14 years on the Gimps project. He is now eligible for a $3,000 award. 

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