A 26-year-old graduate student in the US has made mathematical history by discovering the largest known prime number.
The new number is 6,320,430 digits long. It took just over two years to find using a distributed network of more than 200,000 computers.
Michael Shafer a chemical engineering student at Michigan State University used his office computer to contribute spare processing power to the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS). The project has more than 60,000 volunteers from all over the world taking part.
“I had just finished a meeting with my advisor when I saw the computer had found the new prime,” Shafer says. “After a short victory dance, I called up my wife and friends involved with GIMPS to share the great news.”
Prime numbers are positive integers that can only be divided by themselves and one. Mersenne primes are an especially rare type of prime that take the form 2 p-1, where p is also a prime number……