World's Largest Prime Number Has Over 17 Million Digits

Scientists and mathematicians are always working on ways to prove or disprove certain theories. Research seemingly never ends and often results in new discoveries. Researcher Curtis Cooper from the University of Central Missouri has recently discovered the world's largest prime number. The prime number the researcher worked out has 17,425,170 digits.

Cooper made the discovery using the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search or GIMPS program that networks PCs all around the world to search for a special type of prime number. Cooper's discovery is 2 raised to the 57,885,161 power minus 1.

The significance of this discovery is in the fact that it is the first prime discovered in four years. The researcher admits that there is little mathematical value to finding a single new prime. However, discovering a new prime is very rare and described by mathematicians as "sort of like finding a diamond." To get an idea of how massive the prime is, the text file is 22 MB of nothing but numbers.

If you skipped too many math classes during high school, a prime number is only divisible by itself and the number one. Another interesting factoid is that there are an infinite number of primes. So far the GIMPS project has discovered all 14 of the largest known Mersenne primes. Those numbers take their name from a French monk named Marin Mersenne who is known for studying the numbers 350 years ago.

Edited with (hopefully) a more accurate description from another source.

[via Fox News and via NBC News]