Shouts of joy literally sprang forth from the math office. LOL

On January 25, the largest prime to be discovered to date was “found”.  I use the word found in quotes, because the special number found was determined as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS).  Mersenne primes are prime numbers of the form:

$2P-1$

where P is itself a prime number.  The  numbers 3, 7 and 31 are Mersenne Primes, corresponding to P’s of 2, 3 and 5.  In the GIMPS program, anyone with a computer can help search for new Mersenne primes by installing a program on their computer, which runs quietly in the background.  The recently found prime is the 48th Mersenne Prime to be found, and has over 17 million digits.  It’s not often that math is news, so this is a great opportunity to use something “ripped from the headlines”.

This is big, exciting news in the math community!  And the finding was heralded by

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