A FedEx employee from Tennessee has found the largest prime number ever known. The number has a whopping 23,249,425 digits and it is longer than the last record holder by around a million digits.
Jonathan Pace, an electrical engineer who lives in Germantown, discovered the prime number on Dec. 26, 2017, with the help of a computer powered by an Intel Core i5-6600 processor, which is now off the shelf.
The newly discovered largest prime number has been dubbed as M77232917. Incidentally, a prime number is any number that is only divisible by 1 and itself, for instance, 2, 3, or 5.
M77232917 was discovered as a part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, and it is the 50th discovered Mersenne Prime.
“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)—almost 3 miles (5 km) longer than the previous record prime,” GIMP stated to describe the number.
In short, GIMP added that the number is big enough to fill an entire bookshelf, where 9,000 pages can be fit in.
The free GIMPS software is used by thousands of people in their quest to discover larger and even larger prime numbers. Discovering new prime numbers is not an easy task as very potential prime has to be divided by any possible divisors, which is a rigorous and time-consuming process.
Once a potential prime number candidate is discovered, outside sources have to verify it. In the case of M77232917, four different programs, which ran on four distinct hardware configurations, verified it independently.
The search for finding more primes could come across as frivolous, but primes play a part in practical applications like creating random number generators, hash tables, and public key cryptography algorithms.
For now, Pace is entitled to a research discovery award of $3,000 for his efforts, a sum he wants to donate to his family’s congregation. The teams that discovered the previous two largest prime numbers had respectively earned $50,000 for a 1,000,000 decimal digit prime number and $ 100,000 for a $10,000,000 decimal prime.
More prizes are yet to be earned. Anyone who can find a 100,000,000 decimal digit prime number will get a prize of $150,000 from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The discovery of a 1,000,000,000 decimal digit prime will get a person a whopping $250,000.
The good news for potential discoverers of the prime number candidates that are entitled to an award is that anyone can get involved with GIMPS. All a person needs is a decent computer with a good internet connection. They can avail the free software to look for Mersenne primes on the GIMPS website.