Prime suspects

The search for prime numbers has always been an important challenge for mathematicians, but now it has been opened up to all. Launched on 29th November (291113) by Microsoft Windows Azure, the Prime Challenge invites businesses, schools, universities, clubs or individuals to search for ‘hidden’ primes.

“The biggest prime number ever discovered is 17 million decimal digits long. Previously, the biggest prime number was 12 million digits long. It’s a lot of digits, but there is also a big gap between those two. Potentially there are a lot of “lost primes” waiting to be discovered,” said Steve Plank, Cloud Computing and STEM Evangelist at Microsoft.

Prime numbers, defined as those that have no factors besides one and themselves, are at the heart of arithmetic and have numerous functional applications in today’s digital world, most notably public key cryptography. The aim of the Microsoft Windows Azure Prime Challenge is to provide a unique opportunity for users from all backgrounds to join the search for more prime numbers.

The challenge is open to all and everyone is encouraged to try and find a “lost prime.” Why not visit with your students, and see if they can make a discovery?