It took 1,000 computers 39 days to come up with the longest prime number yet known. It has 17,425,170 digits and is calculated by multiplying 2 by itself 57,885,161 times and then subtracting 1. Curtis Cooper, a computer science professor at the University of Central Missouri who collaborated on the discovery of two earlier record prime numbers, is credited with the latest find. He is so passionate about prime numbers that he already has the university's computers crunching numbers in search of an even higher one, a task that could take between five and seven years. More...

Over two thousand years ago Euclid proved there are infinitely many prime numbers. There are infinitely many primes beyond the large prime just discovered. Under the circumstances the appeal of discovering an ever-larger prime has always escaped me. Unless mathematicians locate the soon-to-be next-largest prime through some novel theorem in number theory the task seems like an unimaginative grind, just pedestrian number crunching. What's the point? Perhaps a mathematician will explain.

Over two thousand years ago Euclid proved there are infinitely many prime numbers. There are infinitely many primes beyond the large prime just discovered. Under the circumstances the appeal of discovering an ever-larger prime has always escaped me. Unless mathematicians locate the soon-to-be next-largest prime through some novel theorem in number theory the task seems like an unimaginative grind, just pedestrian number crunching. What's the point? Perhaps a mathematician will explain.

Maybe mathematicians do it so that when we will finally strike up a conversation with an extraterrestrial species we don't run out of things to say.

With all the real issues that need addressing, hunger, pollution, poverty, etc.... why waste all the time and resources on finding a prime number?

Because pushing the frontiers of knowledge is the way we have advanced to the point we have, although we can see no practical benefit to this particular accomplishment, you can never tell what kind of beneficial side effects may occur. I am reminded of the continual push to add digits to the value of Pi, certainly not because we need to measure the area of a circle to what would probably be smaller than plank lenght.

I just thought of one possible use, if we ever come up with computers that we can not track how they come to conclusions, maybe these numbers will serve as a diagnostic to see if they are still functioning properly.

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