OSLO – It has just been confirmed that the 47th known prime number was found!

On April 12th, Odd Magnar Strindmo of Melhus, Norway, found the the 47th known Mersenne prime number: 2^{42,643,801}-1. It is a 12,837,064 digit number, but surprisingly, is not the largest! It is secondlargest, 141,125 digits smaller than the Mersenne prime found last August by a UCLA Mathematics Department’s computer.

Strindmo has been working with the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, also known as GIMPS, since 1996. GIMPS is a worldwide collective of amateur and professional mathematicians working together to find new prime numbers. This is the 13th number that GIMPS has found in its 13 year history.

Strindmo tested over 1400 candidates before finding the newest number. It reportedly took 29 days of constant calculating on a 3.0 GHz Intel Core2 processor!

Prime numbers have long been a mystery to mathematicians, as no pattern or formula has been discovered (yet) to easily find them. Originally, researchers used trial-and-error to find them, but as the numbers became infinitely longer, modern mathematicians have resorted to using computer programs to do the legwork.

Interested in learning how you can help find the next number? Go to GIMPS’ website and sign up!

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