Tennessee electrical engineer Jonathan Pace has discovered the largest-ever prime number, known as M77232917, as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a collaborative project using globally distributed volunteers' computers.
M77232917 is comprised of more than 23 million digits, and the number also is unique by being a Mersenne prime, or one less than a power of two.
There currently are only 50 known Mersenne primes, with GIMPS credited for finding the last 16.
GIMPS participants search for large Mersenne primes by downloading a free program, and Pace's computer ran for six days to find M77232917, after which four other computers confirmed the result.
Pace's discovery may suggest Mersenne primes occur more frequently than previously thought, or that there is a random clump closer together than anticipated.
The finding of Mersenne primes also is accelerating due to growing computing power and improvements to software.
From New Scientist
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