The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search found and confirmed the biggest known prime number, a 23-million-digit-long figure discovered with the math of 16th century French monk Marin Mersenne, according to a statement earlier this month.
“These ideas could be seen as intellectually connected,” said Seth Schoen, a senior technologist at San Francisco’s Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is offering a $150,000 bounty to the first person or group to discover a 100-million digit prime number.
The process of searching for prime numbers – which are at the foundation of cryptography – shows how solving tedious equations can lead to scientific breakthroughs that have practical applications.
Prime Number Mining Size of known primes up 50-fold since networked computers began searching.
Bounty hunters for prime numbers and cryptography hacker groups have helped to improve cryptocurrencies by showing people how to collectively compute problems in a distributed way, Schoen said.
The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search itself is an example of how collaborative networks programmed to run mundane equations can also be tuned to solve real-world problems.
The Mersenne Prime Search software also doubles as a monitor making sure that participants’ computer systems are running properly and alerting them if something goes wrong, founder George Woltman wrote in an email.