Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
UCM Researchers Find Largest Prime Number
Contact: Jeff Murphy
The discovery of the new number was made as UCM faculty members joined about 21,000 other researchers worldwide to participate in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS).
UCM's research team, led by professors Curtis Cooper, computer science, and Steven Boone, chemistry, has come the closest to claiming the award with the discovery of a 9.1 million-digit number expressed as M30402457, or 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1.
It is the largest known prime number found since the discovery of a 7.8 million-digit prime by GIMPS in February 2005. UCM's discovery was made in the Department of Communication computer lab Dec. 15, using a free GIMPS software program that ran on and off for about 50 days.
UCM President Aaron Podolefsky praised the collaborative spirit that has contributed to the discovery of the new prime number. He noted that the discovery of M30402457 demonstrates how a regional university can contribute to national research at the same level as some more well-known research colleges and universities.
Monetary Award within Reach
In addition to pursuing new prime number discoveries, these individuals also have an opportunity to compete for the monetary award offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The award, of which $25,000 will go to charity and a portion for prime number research, will be given to the first GIMPS participant to discover a 10 million-digit prime.
UCM Discovers 43rd Mersenne Prime Number
The number discovered at UCM is the 43rd discovery in a special class of rare prime numbers known as Mersenne primes, named for French monk Marin Mersenne, who studied these numbers more than 300 years ago. A prime number is a positive integer that can only be evenly divided by itself or the number 1. The prime number, 13, for example, can only be divided by two positive integer factors, 1 and 13.
700 Computers on Campus Assist with Search
Involvement in this worldwide research project is enormous. The 700 computers involved on campus are part of an international grid of about 70,000 networked computers in virtually every time zone of the world. All are using the free software that is provided via the Internet by GIMPS.
Research Pioneered by Edmondson
"We've worked with Information Services to make sure we are not compromising the campus computing infrastructure," said Cooper, who got interested in this project about 10 years ago with colleague Vince Edmondson. Edmondson, professor of mathematics, was instrumental in the campus effort until he passed away in 2003.
"We owe a lot to all of the people on campus who have helped with this project," Boone added.
Ed Davenport, chair of UCM's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, recalled how the campus honored Edmondson's work on the project by planting three trees in front of the W.C. Morris Science Building. Three is the first Mersenne prime.
"I don't know if the university can handle planting the number of trees to denote this Mersenne prime," he said jokingly.
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