A mathematical project group has been working since 1996 to find humongous prime numbers. The Great Internet Mesenne Prime Search has recently found one prime number with more than 22 million digits. Prime numbers are numbers that are only divisible by themselves and 1. They are the basic building blocks of the number system and are a crucial member of the number theory. There are infinitely many prime numbers, however, it can be quite tricky to determine if a random big number is a prime number or not. By big number, what we are implying is a number that has millions of digits.

It was, however, established that for a particular family of numbers is quite straightforward if you have the time to give for establishing whether they are prime or not. The idea is simple; take 2, raise to some power and then subtract 1. The numbers of this form, 2n – 1, are prime numbers known as Mersenne primes.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search has been searching for Mersenne primes. The project makes use of a distributed computing strategy that involves thousands of volunteers downloading a program that searches for Mersenne primes when the computers are idle in collaboration with one another.

The search has been quite successful and helped in identifying 15 enormously big Mersenne primes over the last 20 years. The latest prime number, 274,207,281 – 1, was discovered in early January and is currently the largest number that is known to be prime. It features 22,338,618 digits!