At 17 million digits, it might take you a while to read the largest prime number

Just one tiny section of the mammoth number.

This piece of news will either make you pretty excited or recoil in fear, depending how much you like math. A researcher with a passion for digits found the world’s largest known prime number: 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, minus one. Therefore, the world’s biggest prime has 17,425,170 digits.

Professor Curtis Cooper from the University of Missouri found the number using the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) program. GIMPS can combine the processing power of PCs from all over the world to find a rare type of prime number, the Mersenne prime. To find the 48th Mersenne prime, Professor Cooper spent 39 days of non-stop computing on a university computer.

The discovery celebrates a four-year wait to find the successor of the last biggest prime number, which stood at 12,978,189 digits long. It isn't Professor Curtis’s first Mersenne discovery, because he found the three previous highest known prime numbers.

The Mersenne prime's its value within the field mathematics is quite low, but the reward is great—the volunteer who can find the biggest Mersenne prime number using the GIMPS software could win $3,000.

If you are interested in studying the 17 million digits making up the new prime number, you can download it. To give you an idea how long it is though, the plain text file containing the number is over 22MB.

[Mersenne via SlashGear]

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