FedEx Employee Discovers Largest Known Prime Number

Monday, January 8, 2018 - 14:20

FedEx employee from Tennessee has discovered the longest known prime number.

Jonathan Pace, a 51-year-old engineer living in Germantown, Tennessee, discovered the number after running a special piece of computational software for six days straight. Pace is a volunteer for a project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS). Thousands, armed with "reasonably modern" computers and GIMPS software, volunteer on the project, according to the GIMPS website.

The number, called M77232917, is the 50th "Mersenne prime" to be discovered. Mersenne primes are a group of prime numbers named for the French monk Marin Mersenne, who studied the numbers more than three centuries ago. The number is more than 23 million digits long — 1 million digits longer than the 49th known Mersenne prime, discovered in January 2016.

It is calculated by raising the number 2 to the 77,232,917th power and then subtracting 1. This is Pace's first discovery since he began volunteering for the GIMPS project 14 years ago.

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