Largest known prime number discovered in Missouri

Jan 20, 2016

The largest known prime number has been discovered by a computer at a university in Missouri in the US.

Prime numbers – such as two, three, five and seven – are divisible only by themselves and one, and play an important role in computer encryption.
The new prime is more than 22 million digits long, five million longer than the previous largest prime.
Primes this large could prove useful to computing in the future.

Endless quest

The new prime number was found as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps), a global quest to find a particular type of large prime numbers.
Mersenne primes are named after a French monk who studied them in the 17th Century.
The start of the largest prime

They are hunted by multiplying two by itself a large number of times, then taking away one. It is a relatively manageable calculation for today’s computers, but not every result is a prime.
The discovered prime is written as 2^74,207,281-1, which denotes two, multiplied by itself 74,207,280 times, with one subtracted afterwards.

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6 comments on “Largest known prime number discovered in Missouri

  • A story is told of Peter Geach, when on his way to work in the University of Birmingham. The bus conductor gave him his ticket, in the days when they came from a ticket holder and were issued and punched by the conductor. To prevent fraud, each ticket had a serial number of very many digets. Casting his expert logico-philosophical eye over said ticket, Geach exclaimed: It’s prime! It’s prime!! The conductor threw him off the bus.



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  • Largest known prime number discovered in Missouri ..

    When I read the headline, I visualized some archaeologist with trowel and brush, digging in the swamps and unearthing a huge line of digits.

    Possibly better to say something like, “A Mathematician from Missouri discovered the largest known prime number…”



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  • Yes, my impression too. I wondered how long it had been there, unnoticed by the locals, and if there might be more of them lurking nearby, we might set up a data centre there, with ready access to primes for encryption.

    Could be there are lobbyists already onto it, seeking funding. I’d not be surprised.

    By the way, anybody know which particular prime was Miss Jean Brodie’s?

    And can they be houstrained?



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  • Yes! Permission to tweak, please.

    Cypress and Tupelo swamps are found in the south-east part of the state.

    Given the vast cave / karst system in southern Missouri, the prime #’s might be cozily coiled there.

    ‘Dr. Curtis Cooper, mathematician currently employed at University of Central Missouri (Warrensburg), spots (again) largest prime to date’



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  • Excellent name, Dr C.C. Could he be the next Indiana Jones, with a bit of Crocodile Hunter thrown in? University professor by day, intrepid Prime Hunter on the weekends. I’m sure there’s a movie franchise in there somewhere, or at least a video game. Move over Nathan Drake and Lara Croft…..



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