The search for the largest prime number continues. Mathematicians have to have fun too, and the search for prime numbers and prime number patterns seem to have become the place where math geeks can really let their hair down.
Related to this, computer science professor Curtis Cooper from the University of Central Missouri announced back in early 2013 that he had discovered the largest-known prime number, which is written (274207281)-1. The number is somewhat over 22 million digits long, and it would take you days to read out loud if printed. This new largest prime number was part of a collaborative project using software called GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) where a great deal of distributed processing power is used to search for prime numbers.
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More on searching the largest prime number
The classic definition of a prime number is a number which can only be divided by itself and 1 without a remainder. For example, prime numbers under 100 include: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97.
As many mathematicians have noted over the centuries, primes are very curious numbers. Just for example, there are no primes between 370,261 and 370,373, or between 20,831,323 and 20,831,533. And the primes 13,331, 15,551, 16,661, 19,991 and 72,227 and 1,777,771 are all palindromic numbers, that is, numbers that stay the same even when the digits are reversed.
Scholars have sought meaningful patterns in prime numbers for over 3,000 years, but have only made limited progress to date. The hope is that not only are there more patterns to find, but that these deep and mysterious prime number patterns will help explain other mathematical conundrums.
It turns out there are other reasons besides intellectual curiosity to search for prime number patterns. The Clay Mathematics Institute has put up a one million dollar prize to anyone who can solve the “Riemann problem”. This is a famous math puzzle that resulted from the efforts of mathematicians in trying to understand the many vagaries of prime numbers. Many in the field argue that the discovery of larger primes is likely to aid in the solving of the Riemann problem.