New world record prime number discovered

The GIMPS Project has announced the discovery of the largest known prime number to date, the Mersenne prime 257885161-1.  At 17,425,170 digits, it is more than four million digits longer than the previous record, set in 2008.

The news coverage of this discovery was decent considering the subject matter, with the occasional facepalm-inducing moment, such as NBC News declaring it the largest prime number.  I think an old mathematician named Euclid might have something to say about that if he were still around.

One of the more notable aspects of this story was how quickly the primality of this number was verified.  An Intel Core2 Duo PC desktop sitting in a classroom at the University of Central Missouri ran the Lucas-Lehmer primality test on this number in 39 days, presumably using a single core.  The verifications all took less than 8 days, the fastest of which ran for only 3.6 days on an Nvidia GPU.

With the rapid rate of advances in both GPU software and hardware, there is a good chance that the next world-record prime will be found with a GPU.

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