Friday, March 18, 2016
The largest prime
The largest prime number ever seen by humankind was found on January 7, 2016. It weighs in at 22,338,618 digits in length. It is what is known as a Mersenne prime (274,207,281-1). Mersenne primes are a group of prime numbers of the form 2n -1 where n is is assumed to be prime. This is a fascinating find. Prime numbers are the "building blocks" of all other numbers. Their unique nature has led many number theorists and math enthusiasts to study them in great detail. Although they are used heavily in cryptography, the latest find is far too large to be used in any encryption schemes to date. But as computation theory evolves and computer architectures become more sophisticated these extremely large primes may find their place.