Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Germantown, TN, United States (4E) – The largest known prime number, which stands at 23,249,425 digits long, was discovered by a 51 year-old electrical engineer living in Germantown, Tennessee, who also happens to be a FedEx employee.
Jonathan Pace, a volunteer for the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) in his spare time, discovered the 50th known Mersenne prime on December 26, 2017. The number was calculated by multiplying the number two 77,232,917 times and then subtracting one.
The new number is nearly a million digits longer than the previous record-holder, which was 22,338,618 digits long. Pace will be awarded the GIMPS research discovery award of $3,000 or this feat.
Mersenne prime refers to a prime number among Mersenne numbers which is “a natural number less than 1 to the power of 2.” Prime numbers such as two, three, five and seven are divisible only by themselves and one, and play an important role in computer encryption.
Pace runs “Prime95” on PCs and servers that he oversees as a system administrator. The machine that discovered the new prime is powered by a quad-core Intel Core i5-6600 processor.
It took the system six days to prove the number prime which has since been independently verified using four different programs on various hardware configurations.
Prime95 is the freeware application written by George Woltman used by GIMPS, a distributed computing project dedicated to finding new Mersenne prime numbers. More specifically, Prime95 refers to the Windows and macOS versions of the software.
According to Mersenne.org, the largest known prime number is long enough to fill an entire shelf of books totaling 9,000 pages. Put another way, “If every second you were to write five digits to an inch then 54 days later you’d have a number stretching over 73 miles (118 km).” That’s almost three miles longer than the previous record prime.
GIMPS is an organization formed by Woltman in 1996 to find new prime numbers. Anyone can participate in exploring prime numbers.
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