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Largest prime number ever found is over 22 million digits long

Math lovers rejoice at this mind-boggling discovery. A professor at the University of Central Missouri harnessed the power of a research computer to calculate what is now the world's largest ever prime number. It is over 22 million digits long -- 22,338,618, to be precise. That exceeds the previous record by nearly 5 million digits, according to a press release from the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) Project, which is devoted to finding new prime numbers.

The number is so huge it's been given its own name: "M74207281."

Prof. Curtis Cooper and his team at UCM are credited with the discovery. Cooper also pinpointed the previous record-holder. This number is a Mersenne Prime, an extremely rare prime number that is one less than a power of two. This means that two is multiplied by itself over and over again, and then subtracted by one. In this particular case, the number is two multiplied by itself 74,207,281 times -- minus one.

This is merely the 49th Merseinne Prime ever discovered.

(For those a little less mathematically inclined, a prime number is any number that is only divisible by itself and the number one.)

Cooper is now eligible to receive a $3,000 research discovery award from the project. GIMPS next hopes its volunteers can find a 100-million-digit prime number. That discovery would qualify for a $150,000 prize from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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