2^43,112,609 -1: Distributed computing finds largest prime yet

GIMPS – the distributed computing Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search – has found and confirmed the largest prime number ever: 243,112,609-1. It has 13 million digits and gives the GIMPS project a $100,000 award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Science News reports.

GIMPS – the distributed computing Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search – has found and confirmed the largest prime number ever: 243,112,609-1. It has 13 million digits and gives the GIMPS project a $100,000 award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Science News reports.
Because 243,112,609-1 has the form 2n-1, it’s called a “Mersenne prime,” after a French monk born in the 16thcentury who made an (incorrect) conjecture about them. Mersenne primes are of particular interest partly because they can be expressed in such a compact form. (It sure is easier to write 243,112,609-1 than to type out all 13 million digits!) More significantly, though, some clever methods have been developed to identify them.

Like SETI@Home, GIMPS hooks together millions of PCs that donate their unused cycles to crunching the numbers for a very large computing project, in this case, finding these insanely huge prime numbers.

EFF is offering a $150,000 award for a prime with 100 million digits and $250,000 for 1 billion digits. But to get to these huge numbers, GIMPS will have to retool its distributed approach, says Landon Noll, a judge for the contest and a discoverer of the former biggest known prime. What's needed is an algorithm to let multiple computers work together to test a single prime, since testing a billion-digit number would take a single PC more than 500 years.

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