The number is far too long to have any practical use. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Jeff Golden

A computer programme in the US has succeeded in finding the largest prime number ever discovered.

Prime numbers, which are a vital part of computer encryption, are special numbers that can only be divided by either themselves or by one. Common examples include two, three, five and seven.For the last few years scientists have been running a computer programme at the University of Central Missouri in an effort to find new prime numbers larger than any that have come before.

Known as the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps), the project originally began in 2007 and has since discovered several new prime numbers with the last one being found in 2013.

Now however Dr Curtis Cooper has revealed the discovery of an entirely new prime number that is a staggering 22 million digits long and is written in mathematical notation as 2^74,207,281-1.

"The prime number, also known as M74207281, is calculated by multiplying together 74,207,281 twos then subtracting one," a Gimps spokesman said in a statement.

"It has 22,338,618 digits - almost 5 million digits longer than the previous record prime number."

Tags: Mathematics, Prime Number

Recent comments on this story

#1 Posted by pallidin on 20 January, 2016, 20:26

What is the "purpose" of a "prime number"? I don't get it's significance. Encryption mathematical science? How?

#2 Posted by JKoene on 21 January, 2016, 11:58

Well, good questions. I'll give you the answers, as soon as you find the next new prime number.

#3 Posted by RabidMongoose on 21 January, 2016, 17:11

A computer in Missouri has discovered the largest known prime number, 274,207,281- 1. It is about 22 million digits long, 5 million digits longer than the previous largest known prime, which was discovered in January 2013. Prime numbers are numbers that are divisible only by themselves and one, such as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and 13. The search for the highest known prime is a long-established mathematical quest, of interest now more as a test of computing power rather than for any practical use of the number itself. It's a fun challenge too. http://www.theguardi...-million-digits Are tax payers happy ... [More]

#4 Posted by badeskov on 21 January, 2016, 21:37

Are tax payers happy funding this? Are tax payers funding this? Probably. How big a percentage of the funding actually went to this endeavor? Probably a very little one. Did it further parallel computing? Yes, it did. All in all, as I see, looks like a win. A small amount of resources allocated to finding something that may be irrelevant, yet furthers parallel algorithms incidentally used in other areas I find rather useful and worth the money. Cheers, Badeskov

#5 Posted by badeskov on 21 January, 2016, 21:42

What is the "purpose" of a "prime number"? I don't get it's significance. Encryption mathematical science? How? One part is encryption. Another is just the science. Cheers, Badeskov

#6 Posted by stevemagegod on 22 January, 2016, 4:29

Interesting So has this software just been running non stop to find this prime number for the last 2 years straight? I find that hard to believe to have a computer constantly running massive amounts of numbers like this for over a year without having tech problems.

#7 Posted by Silver Surfer on 24 January, 2016, 9:14

#8 Posted by Silver Surfer on 24 January, 2016, 9:26

Interesting So has this software just been running non stop to find this prime number for the last 2 years straight? I find that hard to believe to have a computer constantly running massive amounts of numbers like this for over a year without having tech problems. Redundancy would have been the first thing they thought about. We are far past a 'single computer' failing.

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