Dr. Curtis Cooper a mathematician at the University of Central Missouri has discovered what is now the largest known prime number. The new prime number, 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, less one (257,885,161-1), has 17,425,170 digits. With 360,000 CPUs peaking at 150 trillion calculations per second, 17th-year GIMPS is the longest continuously-running global supercomputing project in Internet history. Dr. Cooper is a professor at the University of Central Missouri. This is the third record prime for Dr. Cooper and his University. Their first record prime was discovered in 2005, eclipsed by their second record in 2006. Computers at UCLA broke that record in 2008 with a 12,978,189 digit prime number. UCLA held the record until University of Central Missouri reclaimed the world record with this discovery. The new primality proof took 39 days of non-stop computing on one of the university’s PCs. Dr. Cooper and the University of Central Missouri are the largest individual contributors to the project. The discovery is eligible for a $3,000 GIMPS research discovery award.
The new prime number is a member of a special class of extremely rare prime numbers known as Mersenne primes. It is only the 48th known Mersenne prime ever discovered, each increasingly difficult to find. Mersenne primes were named for the French monk Marin Mersenne, who studied these numbers more than 350 years ago. GIMPS, founded in 1996, has discovered all 14 of the largest known Mersenne primes. Volunteers download a free program to search for these primes with a cash award offered to anyone lucky enough to compute a new prime. Chris Caldwell maintains an authoritative web site on the largest known primes as well as the history of Mersenne primes.
To prove there were no errors in the prime discovery process, the new prime was independently verified using different programs running on different hardware. Serge Batalov ran Ernst Mayer’s MLucas software on a 32-core server in 6 days (resource donated by Novartis IT group) to verify the new prime. Jerry Hallett verified the prime using the CUDALucas software running on a NVidia GPU in 3.6 days. Finally, Dr. Jeff Gilchrist verified the find using the GIMPS software on an Intel i7 CPU in 4.5 days and the CUDALucas program on a NVidia GTX 560 Ti in 7.7 days.
GIMPS software was developed by founder, George Woltman, in Orlando, Florida. Scott Kurowski, in San Diego, California, wrote and maintains the PrimeNet system that coordinates all the GIMPS clients. Volunteers have a chance to earn research discovery awards of $3,000 or $50,000 if their computer discovers a new Mersenne prime. GIMPS’ next major goal is to win the $150,000 award administered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation offered for finding a 100 million digit prime number.
Credit for GIMPS’ prime discoveries goes not only to Dr. Cooper for running the software on his University’s computers, Woltman and Kurowski for authoring the software and running the project, but also the thousands of GIMPS volunteers that sifted through millions of non-prime candidates. Therefore, official credit for this discovery shall go to “C. Cooper, G. Woltman, S. Kurowski, et al.”
About Mersenne.org’s Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search
The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) was formed in January 1996 by George Woltman to discover new world-record-size Mersenne primes. In 1997 Scott Kurowski enabled GIMPS to automatically harness the power of hundreds of thousands of ordinary computers to search for these “needles in a haystack”. Most GIMPS members join the search for the thrill of possibly discovering a record-setting, rare, and historic new Mersenne prime. The search for more Mersenne primes is already under way. There may be smaller, as yet undiscovered Mersenne primes, and there certainly are larger Mersenne primes waiting to be found. Anyone with a reasonably powerful PC can join GIMPS and become a big prime hunter, and possibly earn a cash research discovery award. All the necessary software can be downloaded for free at www.mersenne.org/freesoft.htm. GIMPS is organized as Mersenne Research, Inc., a 501(c)(3) science research charity. Additional information may be found at www.mersenneforum.org and www.mersenne.org; donations are welcome.