Number takes prime position

December 5, 2001 | Source: BBC News

The largest prime number yet discovered has just been revealed to the world.
The new number, expressed as 213,466,917-1, contains 4,053,946 digits and would take the best part of three weeks to write out longhand.

The prime number was discovered by Michael Cameron, a 20-year-old Canadian participant in a mass computer project known as the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps).

Mersenne primes are important for the theory of numbers and they may help in developing unbreakable codes and message encryptions.

The Gimps project spent 13,000 years of computer time to find the new prime number.