When you woke up this morning, what was the first thing you reached for? A glass of water? The snooze button on your alarm clock? The collapse of the patriarchy and thus the inevitable and swift arrival of male birth control? A new prime number?
Hey, three out of four ain’t bad. Prime numbers, if you remember from your playground days, are numbers that are divisible only by one and themselves; and, as logic would dictate, prime numbers get harder to find as digits increase. But while something like three lonely scientists in the basement of a safety school try to concoct the recipe for male birth control, a professor at the University of Missouri has discovered a prime number that has 22 million digits, 5 million more digits than the last prime number discovered.
Curtis Cooper discovered the new prime by connecting his university computers to GIMPS, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, software that enables people to use idle processing power to discover new and bigger primes. This is the fourth prime number that Cooper has “discovered,” but he didn’t even really do it. His computer did.
How will you be putting this very large and arbitrary number to use today?