Caitlin Donnell

In a universe of exactness and concrete formulas, they’ve been called rowdy, erratic, disorderly, humongous, beautiful, monstrous integers. Yet, many people are spending a lot of time looking for them. They are prime numbers, numbers that can only be divided by themselves and by one.

Ever since Euclid, the great Greek mathematician, proved in 325 BC that there are infinite prime numbers, the search has been on.

With 7,000 computers and a team of volunteers, Steven Boone, a 1984 Cal Poly alumnus and now chemistry professor and Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Central Missouri University, used simple division to prove numbers for their primality. After nine years, another prime number is added to the gang of unpredictable integers. The new hooligan on the prime number line is 2 to the 30402457-1. This is a 9.1 million digit number.

“If one were to print the number in 12-point font,” said Boone in a press release, “it would fill 2,800 pages.”

Boone and his team discovered the largest Mersenne prime number. It is not as unruly as its fellow prime numbers because it is found using a formula that simplifies proof of primality. Mersenne prime numbers are found by multiplying two to the power of ‘p’ and minus one in which ‘p’ is a prime number.

There has long been a search for a proof of numbers primality, though some mathematicians say it is close to being found. This has some people concerned because one of the main uses of prime numbers is in cryptology.

A company in Walnut Creek, Calif., recently unveiled its new technology called Prime Processing. A real-time data processing engine that will aid in the management and transmission of the exponentially growing data in the financial sector. It can transmit and process 50 million messages per second.

Other theories for the uses of prime numbers are thought to have an integral part, such as the Chaos to Order and Order to Chaos Theory.

Cal Poly and the professors are still an important part of Boone’s life.

Christina Bailey, chemistry department head, said Boone was a very good student when he was in her classes. They now work together on the National Exam Committee.

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