[Computational Complexity] A Search Without End

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• Finding the 5th moon of Jupiter was a big deal. Finding the 14th moon was a big deal. But it s hard to get excited about the 63rd moon. Now imagine if Jupiter
Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7 4:54 AM
Finding the 5th moon of Jupiter was a big deal. Finding the 14th moon was a big deal. But it's hard to get excited about the 63rd moon. Now imagine if Jupiter had an infinite number of moons.

New York Times, August 29, 1989

After more than a year of computation, six researchers at a California computer company have found the largest known prime number, which is 65,087 digits long and would fill more than 32 double-spaced typed pages.

While the search for the largest prime may seem like an esoteric pursuit, one of the researchers, Landon Curt Noll, said the work that permitted them to discover the number has a wide variety of commercial and scientific applications.

Associated Press, March 31, 1992
Mathematicians using a supercomputer have advanced the quest of a 17th-century French monk (Mersenne) by discovering the largest known prime number. The number begins 174 135 906 820 087 097 325 and goes on and on and on for 227,832 digits, filling 32 pages of computer paper.

Jeffrey Lagarias, a mathematician at A.T.& T. Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J., said that the discovery might have some significance in pure number theory but that "it's not going to revolutionize anything."

New York Times, March 29, 2005
An eye surgeon in Germany has discovered the world's largest known prime number—or at least his computer did. The surgeon, Dr. Martin Nowak of Michelfeld, is among thousands of participants in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, one of several big projects that tap idle computers worldwide. The number, rendered in exponential shorthand, is 225,964,951-1. It has 7,816,230 digits, and if printed in its entirety, would fill 235 pages of this newspaper.

"Finding an additional prime doesn't enlighten us very much," said Dr. Andrew M. Odlyzko, a mathematician at the University of Minnesota.

Associated Press, January 3, 2006
Researchers at a Missouri university have identified the largest known prime number, officials said Tuesday. The number that the team found is 9.1 million digits long. It is a Mersenne prime known as M30402457—that's 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1.

The team at Central Missouri State University, led by associate dean Steven Boone and mathematics professor Curtis Cooper, found it in mid-December after programming 700 computers years ago. "We're super excited," said Boone, a chemistry professor. "We've been looking for such a number for a long time."

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Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 1/07/2006 06:46:00 AM
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