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January 06, 2006

The highest yet known

Congratulations are certainly in order to the Central Missouri State University team that verified the largest known Mersenne prime number, as reported in The Star (01/04, Metro).

This is extremely exciting to me, especially coming on the heels of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Steven Hofmann’s recent proof of Kato’s conjecture last week. Who knew Missouri was such a hotbed of math expertise?

However, to set the record straight, prime numbers are like potato chips, in that there is an infinite number of them. The Mersenne number verified by the CMSU team is neither the largest prime nor the largest Mersenne prime. It is only the largest currently known Mersenne prime number.

Erich Noll
Kansas City



Now if someone could remember what the question was, we'd really be getting somewhere.


Having read THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, I am personally aware that the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is---42. Now that is an important number.

Ray Seay

I was going to post the number but 9.1 million digits is a little much

That’s the same as 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus one, a number that is 9.1 million digits long.


Some people actually find math interesting, believe it or not. Also, I was surprised to learn from the letter writer that there is an infinite number of potato chips.


I suspect the answers are "math experts" and "because they could."

I'm curious why the reader felt he needed to point out that it's "only" a record that will someday be broken after congratulating them. What a downer.


Jack- I didn't want to be the first to say it, just in case there was some great revelation I was missing here, but I had the same reaction.


This all ranks fairly high on both the "Who Cares" and "Why'd They Bother?" lists, doesn't it?

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