Mersenne Prime Numbers - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Feb. 2, 2004

Mersenne Prime Numbers

Today's website is geared for math geeks in search of really big prime numbers--you remember them don't you? Prime numbers are numbers greater than one that only divide evenly by itself and 1; numbers like 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and so on. Mersenne prime numbers are a little more exclusive--only 40 are known and follow this simple equation where 2 is multiplied by itself a certain amount of times, and then subtract 1 to make it not divisible by 2. 3, 7, 31, and 127 are examples of Mersenne prime numbers. The newest one--discovered on November 17, 2003, is 2 multiplied by itself 20,996,011 times, minus one--or.....this number with 6,320,430 digits. I started to print it, but when I saw how many pages it would be (1317!!!!), I changed my mind.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search--or GIMPS for short--has found 6 new Mersenne primes since GIMPS started in January 1996. Why do they do this? Simple--making math history and breaking new frontiers in math. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has offered a $100,000 award to whoever discovers the first 10 million digit prime, and other awards for even bigger number.

For This Week in Geek, I'm Mark Avery.

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