While the large hadron collider is out of action, fans of scientific enormousness will be pleased to hear that not one but two new large prime numbers have been discovered. They are:
237,156,667 – 1
243,112,609 – 1
This second one is now the largest known prime, at 12,978,189 digits long. You can see the entire thing written out here, if you can’t wait for the poster to come out.
As you can see, both are Mersenne primes: prime numbers of the form 2n-1, for some n. The largest was discovered by Edson Smith at UCLA, and the other by Hans-Michael Elvenich in Langenfeld, Germany, both as part of the collaborative programme GIMPS (the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search). Smith’s put together an FAQ about his discovery.