Primes update: success again!

Share this page
September 1997

In "Discovering new primes" in issue No 1 we introduced PASS Maths readers to GIMPS, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Well, on Sunday 24th August 1997 they did it again.

Gordon Spence, an IT Manager from Hampshire beat the previous record and found the largest known prime number: 2 raised to the power of 2,976,221 minus 1, beating the previous record by a large margin.

Although Spence's prime is the 36th Mersenne prime to be found it is not necessarily the 36th one in sequence. There are many smaller Mersenne numbers still to be tested representing thousands of years of computing time on an ordinary desktop PC.

The reason for GIMPS' success is that there are thousands of participants all over the world checking the numbers on their PCs, and they're still looking for more. Taking part couldn't be easier and who knows? You might just end up in the record books.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.
  • Want facts and want them fast? Our Maths in a minute series explores key mathematical concepts in just a few words.

  • As COP28, the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, kicks off we look at how maths can help understand the climate crisis.

  • How do you create dramatic film out of mathematics? We find out with writer and director Timothy Lanzone.

  • Mathematics plays a central role in understanding how infectious diseases spread. This collection of articles looks at some basic concepts in epidemiology to help you understand this fascinating and important field, and set you up for further study.

  • Find out why the formula we use to work out conditional probabilities is true!

  • We talk about a play that explores the fascinating mathematical collaboration between the mathematicians GH Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan.