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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Bring out the GIMPS

Around 300 BCE, Euclid proved that there are an infinite number of prime numbers. That means that there are prime numbers that are as yet undiscovered! Now, I know what you're thinking. "All of these prime numbers are out there just waiting to be found. How can I be a part of it?"

Once upon a time, I would say get a degree in mathematics from an accredited university and then study up on number theory for a while, but now there's an easier way. The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) allows everybody to get in on the fun! All you need is a Pentium class computer with some cycles to spare.

The GIMPS project aims to discover new Mersenne primes, a certain kind of prime numbers named for French mathematician Marin Mersenne (1588-1648). Members of this series take the form 2n-1 and are of particular interest to those working in the field of data encryption. RSA encryption, developed in 1977 by MIT researchers Rivest, Shamir and Adlemann is based on the Marsenne prime series, and was a breakthrough in encryption technologies because it provided a method of securing data even though the method of encryption was made public.

Much like the SETI@home project which helps scientists analyze radio signals they detect in space, the GIMPS project uses distributed computing to accomplish processor-intensive tasks. The idea is simple: share the workload across enough computers, and the work will get done much faster. If you leave your computer on all day, you can install the GIMPS software which will run while the computer is idle, testing numbers for primality and reporting the results back to the project's central server, PrimeNet.

And the work is paying off. To date, GIMPS has discovered 8 Marsenne primes, the latest on February 18, 2005, when the 42nd known Mersenne Prime was discovered by a computer in Germany running the GIMPS software. The magic number: 225,964,951-1. If written out, it would have 7,816,230 digits. That's one hell of a prime number!

And if that weren't exciting enough, now you can have one of your very own! Perfectly Scientific, Inc. offers a poster with the entire number printed out in a crystal-clear 1-point font, suitable for reading with a magnifying glass. And with Christmas right around the corner, you now know what to buy for all those math geeks on your list.

So, get in the game, people. Join the legion of GIMPS.

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Comments on Bring out the GIMPS
  Comment from Blogger the sparrow at Saturday, November 19, 2005 12:54:00 AM
Well, I guess you know what you're getting in your stocking...in addition to that lump of coal ;)
  Comment from Anonymous Kiddiemaster at Saturday, November 19, 2005 1:36:00 AM
Is this a side effect of your new love for number games?
  Comment from Anonymous Anonymous at Monday, November 21, 2005 5:17:00 AM
SETI > GIMPS

:p

-m

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.