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Largest prime number yet discovered

The largest prime number yet was discovered by University of Central Missouri mathematician Curtis Cooper.

Largest prime number 2013 02 05Enlarge
A small portion of the new largest prime number yet. The full figure is 17,425,170 digits long. (Screengrab)

The world's largest prime number yet has been discovered -- all 17,425,170 digits of it.

The figure -- 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times minus 1, written mathematically as 257,885,161-1 -- is the first prime number discovered in nearly five years, according to Scientific American.

The last record-holder? A paltry 12,978,189 digits long.

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University of Central Missouri mathematician Curtis Cooper made the find while working with the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, giant network of volunteer computers devoted to finding primes, LiveScience reported.

The achievement was no easy feat.

According to CNN, it took Cooper 39 days of nonstop computing to prove that the number was legit.

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To review, a prime number is a positive integer that cannot be divided evenly by any number other than itself and the number 1.

The first 10 prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29.

You can see an abbreviated version of the new largest prime number here, or download all 17,425,170 digits in a massive, 22MB text file.

While really cool, the discovery won't impact many people's lives.

But it does show that modern computers are fast enough to run such complicated calculations, Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin, told CNN.

"In some ways, this is more of a triumph in engineering than a triumph of mathematics," he said.

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