"We're super excited. We've been looking for such a number for a long time." So says Central Missouri State University associate dean and chemistry professor Steven Boone in announcing that after years of searching, programming 700 computers, several thousand man-hours of work, mostly by undergrads who won’t even be credited in the paper, and I-don't-know-how-many-megawatt hours of electricity, they have found the largest known prime number. And it isn’t just any prime number, oh no. It’s a Mersenne Prime Number. A Mersenne Prime is not just your average daily divisible-by-one-and-itself prime number. A Mersenne Prime is a prime number that is one less than a prime power of two.
Now, is it just me, or is everyone else going, “Uhhhh… So?” I just can’t share professor Boone’s super excitement. So they found the largest ever prime number, what are they going to do with it? You can’t print t-shirts with it and sell that. The number they found is 9.1 million digits long. Enough digits in 10-point Times New Roman to circle the earth 17 times. The printing costs alone would be exorbitant, pricing the t-shirt out of the general market. The market for the t-shirt would consist solely of Paris Hilton and you know she won’t be wearing it for long.
I say, now that you’ve found this number, for the love of all that’s holy, STOP! You know you won’t find the largest prime number. It’s impossible. Leave it be. Unplug those 700 computers and donate them to some third world country. The time, energy, and talent used in this endeavor should now be put to better use. Alternative and renewable sources of energy. Vaccines for killer diseases. Free internet that would reach the remotest barangays with computers that won’t cost you an arm, a leg, and your virgin daughter, and runs on kitchen waste. Better TV programming for GMA and ABS-CBN. (I just threw the last one in for laughs. We all know that’s impossible. But you get the point.)