Last Wednesday, a new prime number was discovered, that prime number being 257,885,161 – 1. That is, TWO raised to the 57, 885, 161 power minus one which uses the Marsenne method of locating primes.
This prime is about 17 million digits long and the longest known, which is pretty awesome. Why do I care? Why does Derek Berry care? Because I’m currently taking a class on “Appreciation of Math” which perhaps it has no exams, helps me appreciate mathematics. In the first few classes, we learned about how prime numbers relate to number theory and the idea of the search for an infinite number of primes. The fact that the largest known prime was found right now while I am learning about them is pretty awesome.
Imagine prime numbers are like atoms, what makes up the larger parts of the universe. Meaning that every number is the product of unique primes. Whoa, I know right. That means that to understand primes will help us understand the origins of math. Why prime numbers exist and what they are will help us calculate is immeasurably important, though most mathematicians believe number theory works like art. Finding prime numbers is an art that takes a long time as well.
For reference, the last prime number was found in 2008, which means we went almost five years before another person (an amateur) found it.
Also, Marsenne primes are easier than others to find, as the last fifteen largest primes have been Marsenne primes. While there are an infinite number of primes (proven by Euclid, yo), there may or may not be an infinite number of Marsenne primes which means finding a prime will grow exponentially harder as time passes.
Just filling you in with your related math news. Keep it real.