There are 17 million digits in the largest prime number we know of, so far. Its discovery is part of an ongoing distributed computing project aimed at exposing the existence of ever larger prime numbers, largely because prime numbers are there — flagrantly going around, only being divisible by themselves and the number 1. We'll show them, won't we? The Electronic Frontier Foundation foundation, for instance, is currently offering a \$150,000 bounty for the first folks to bring in a 100-million-digit prime.

• awjt

New rule: it should be against the law, and you spend time thinking about it in the Hague, to calculate any large prime without knowing all the primes that come before it.  You cannot skip ahead.

• Mark Dow

With a measly 18 or 19 digits.

From http://primes.utm.edu/notes/faq/LongestList.html

“Perhaps the longest lists ever calculated (but not all stored) are those corresponding to the maximal prime gap (and twin prime constant) projects.  See Nicely’s lists. At the time I last updated this page, these projects had found (but not stored) all the prime up to 10^18, but not yet to 10^19.”

spoiler alert: this is the plot to Speed 3!

• showme

Not The Life of Pi?

• bzishi

Why? I assure you, there are enough prime numbers for everyone to discover!

• awjt

Hey, rules are rules, and I’m hereby making them!  :-)

• Jake0748

I love the EFF. But what reason could they possibly have for offering money for a new prime number?   Shouldn’t they be using that dough to fight the good copyfight?

• Asmodeus

Prime numbers are used in cryptography, so the EFF would use that to help with internet privacy.

• BillStewart2012

Mersenne primes aren’t particularly useful for cryptography.  There aren’t very many of them, and they’ve got special forms which make them easy to find but might interfere with cryptographic use.  On the other hand, they’re a good problem to use for developing tools for large distributed computations, and potentially more practical than looking for Space Aliens.

• bucaneer

It’s a matter of collateral benefit, I think. Calculating a 100 million digit prime would require a breakthrough in computing power, algorithm design or mathematical theory, all of which would most probably find some good wider use. See also: indirect benefits of space race.

From https://www.eff.org/awards/coop
“Prize money comes from a special donation provided by an individual EFF supporter, earmarked specifically for this project. Prize money does NOT come from EFF membership dues, corporate or foundation grants, or other general EFF funds.”

• jimkirk

Whenever someone tells me to “pick a number, any number”, I just start rattling off digit until they get bored/aggravated and usually ask me to stop.

• Andrew Pautz