Dr Curtis Cooper from the University of Central Missouri has found the largest-known prime number – written (274207281)-1. It is around 22 million digits long.
It was discovered thanks to GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search), a collaborative project of volunteers who use freely available software to search for primes. Mersenne primes are named after a French monk who studied them in the 17th Century.
Steve Humble MBE, of Newcastle University, writes that primes are strange and curious numbers. 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 palindromes (i.e.they remain the same when the digits are reversed).
Although computers do most of the hard work, primes are said to be discovered when a human takes note of the result. Which is awfully existential if you think about it…
[Source: BBC, The Conversation]