Scientists claim to have discovered the largest prime mumber yet – it’s 2^43,112,609-1. That’s just a short way of typing it – it’s actually 13 million digits long. It nets them a prize of US$100,000 from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The scientists are members of a group called GIMPS, which stands for Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Mersenne Primes come in the form (2^n) – 1 and are named after a 16th Century French monk who made an incorrect conjecture about them.
The GIMPS used distributed computing to crunch this number out, which is where many computers, often owned by private individuals, donate their spare computing cycles for a larger project. Two notable examples are the SETI@Home and Protein Folding experiments to search for aliens and find a cure for cancer respectively.
The EFF are offering a US$150,000 award for a prime with 100 million digits and US$250,000 for 1 billion digits. If you fancy having a go at that, then who am I to stop you? Here’s a pencil and the back of an envelope. Off you go.
GIMPS (via ZDNet)