The Corner

Prime Numbers

A reader in Omaha asks: “Hello – sorry to interrupt your day, but Paul

Harvey on the radio just said that the largest prime number has been

discovered. He gave a person’s name (which I forgot) and the number of

digits (6 million plus). You’re the only person in my e-mail who might know

something about this. Is it true? Thanks.”

Well, if Paul Harvey called it the largest prime number, he mis-spoke.

There is no largest prime number, a fact proved by Euclid around 2,300 years ago. This one is just the largest we have so far

identified. It’s (2 raised to the power of 20,996,011) minus 1. The number

of digits is 6,320,430. Here’s a story.

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