After 14 Years, FedEx Employee Makes Major Math Discovery

There's a new longest known prime number
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2018 12:34 PM CST
Stock image   (Getty Images/christopherhall)

(Newser) – A new prime number—the biggest ever—has been discovered. Unfortunately, we don't have the 54 days CNET reports it would take to write it all out. The newly found number, nicknamed M77232917, is 2 to the 77,232,917th power minus 1, according to FiveThirtyEight. It's 23,249,425 digits long—nearly a million digits longer than the previous record-holder for longest known prime number. (A prime number is one that is divisible only by 1 and itself, for those far removed from their elementary school math classes.)

M77232917 was discovered by Tennessee's Jonathan Pace, a 51-year-old FedEx employee and volunteer for the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, CNBC reports. Pace had been searching for a new prime number for 14 years; it took an additional six days to prove his discovery was indeed a prime number. The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search says M77232917 is "big enough to fill an entire shelf of books totaling 9,000 pages." It adds that if each five digits of the number took up an inch, the entire thing would stretch more than 73 miles. And while that's pretty dang long, it's only a matter of time until an even longer one is discovered as there are an infinite amount of prime numbers in the universe.

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