Don't forget that number any time soon because it's currently the largest prime number known to man. Dr. Curtis Cooper of the University of Central Missouri has become the latest in a series of mathematicians who have uncovered these enormous theoretical Mersenne prime numbers as part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS).
Named after the 17th century French monk who theorized their existence, Mersenne prime numbers are a special class of super prime numbers that can only be discovered through strenuous calculations on super computers. Only 48 such numbers between 0 and 257,885,161-1 have ever been discovered, and more and more time passes with each discovery.
The previous record holder, 243,112,609-1, was discovered in 2008 by Edson Smith, and before that one or two had been discovered every year or so since 2003. With the relatively large wait in time between discoveries, calculations are proving to be more and more difficult each passing number.
Dr. Curtis Cooper's computer ran for 39 straight days of constant calculations just to prove his work. However, his discovery has been verified by several other computers belonging to volunteers who take part in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. This is the third time Dr. Curtis Cooper has uncovered the largest prime number known to man. He had already done so twice back in 2005 and 2006. He will receive $3,000 for all his efforts.