Volunteer Grid Project Finds Biggest Prime Ever

By Tiffany Trader

February 8, 2013

Volunteer grid computing is in the news again. The distributed computing project known as GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) has tracked down the largest known prime number after a five-year hunt. Over 17 million digits in length, the number is most easily represented as 2 multiplied by itself 57,885,161 times, minus one.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) was created in January 1996 by MIT graduate George Woltman with the goal of identifying Mersenne primes using his software Prime95 and Mprime. Now in its 17th year, GIMPS is the longest continuously-running project of its kind. At its peak, the volunteer grid employs 360,000 CPUs, with a top output of 150 trillion calculations per second.

Interestingly, the search for the biggest Mersenne Prime has created a rivalry of sorts between University of Central Missouri and the University of California Los Angeles. This most recent discovery was made by volunteer Curtis Cooper’s computer, one of several University of Central Missouri machines engaged in the search. It’s the third record prime for the university, where Dr. Cooper is a professor. Their earlier discoveries took place in 2005 and 2006.

Then in 2008 UCLA mathematicians unearthed a 12,978,189 digit prime number. They held onto that record for five years, until the University of Central Missouri came back with the next biggest Mersenne prime.

As this progression demonstrates, not only are Mersenne primes rare, but each successive one gets harder and harder to find. The proof itself took 39 days of continuous computing. Results were independently validated by three different researchers in four separate verification tests.

The Prime Objective

A prime number is a positive integer that can only be divided by one and itself. The prime series starts out 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and so on. The integer 6 would not be a prime because it is divisible by 2 and 3.

A Mersenne prime is expressed as 2 raised to the power of “P” minus 1, where P is also a prime. Examples of Mersenne primes are 3, 7, 31, and 127, which corresponds to P = 2, 3, 5, and 7 respectively.

According to GIMPS, “Mersenne primes have been central to number theory since they were first discussed by Euclid in 350BC. The man whose name they now bear, the French monk Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), made a famous conjecture on which values of P would yield a prime. It took 300 years and several important discoveries in mathematics to settle his conjecture.”

As of this latest discovery, there are now 48 known Mersenne primes. GIMPS has found the last 14 of them.

Computing for a Cause

Volunteer computing relies on the principles of grid computing to allow average netizens to contribute computational resources to a variety of causes. The projects – and there are lots of them – harness the idle processing power of thousands of machines (most often personal computers or university systems) operated by volunteers who have installed a software client on their systems.

Besides GIMPS, other popular projects include SETI@home, Folding@home and the World Community Grid. But these are just a small sampling of the many noteworthy candidates.

Most are strictly volunteer endeavors, but some do provide incentives, and GIMPS is one that does. The project offers two discovery awards: currently set at $3,000 – for numbers with fewer than 100,000,000 digits – and $50,000 – for the first prime discovered having at least 100,000,000 digits. The discovery made by Dr. Cooper’s machine (which located a 17,425,170-digit prime) is eligible for the $3,000 award.

The monies for the second and more-substantial award level would actually come from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As part of its Cooperative Computing Awards project, EFF is providing $150,000 to the first “Internet user” to locate a 100 million digit prime number. GIMPS participants agree in advance that if their computer is the one to identify the next winner, they will split the money with the GIMPS foundation (to be used for future awards) and with a mathematics-related charity.

Prime hunting is no mere mathematical navel gazing, there are implications in higher math theory. Prime numbers are also important to public key cryptography, widely-used to secure online transactions.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Wondering How AI is Doing Versus Doctors?

September 26, 2017

With all the noise around AI’s potential in medicine, you may be wondering how well it is actually performing. No one knows the real answer - for one thing it is a moving target - but the IEEE Spectrum is attempting to Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Completes ClusterStor Deal, Sunsets Sonexion Brand

September 25, 2017

Having today completed the transaction and strategic partnership with Seagate announced back in July, Cray is now home to the ClusterStor line and will be sunsetting the Sonexion brand. This is not an acquisition; the ClusterStor assets are transferring from Seagate to Cray (minus the Seagate ClusterStor IBM Spectrum Scale product) and Cray is taking over support and maintenance for the entire ClusterStor base. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s TianHe-2A will Use Proprietary Accelerator and Boast 94 Petaflops Peak

September 25, 2017

The details of China’s upgrade to TianHe-2 (MilkyWay-2) – now TianHe-2A – were revealed last week at the Third International High Performance Computing Forum (IHPCF2017) in China. The TianHe-2A will use a proprieta Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Prepares Customers for Success with the HPC Software Portfolio

High performance computing (HPC) software is key to harnessing the full power of HPC environments. Development and management tools enable IT departments to streamline installation and maintenance of their systems as well as create, optimize, and run their HPC applications. Read more…

SC17 Preview: Invited Talk Lineup Includes Gordon Bell, Paul Messina and Many Others

September 25, 2017

With the addition of esteemed supercomputing pioneer Gordon Bell to its invited talk lineup, SC17 now boasts a total of 12 invited talks on its agenda. As SC explains, "Invited Talks are a premier component of the SC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Completes ClusterStor Deal, Sunsets Sonexion Brand

September 25, 2017

Having today completed the transaction and strategic partnership with Seagate announced back in July, Cray is now home to the ClusterStor line and will be sunsetting the Sonexion brand. This is not an acquisition; the ClusterStor assets are transferring from Seagate to Cray (minus the Seagate ClusterStor IBM Spectrum Scale product) and Cray is taking over support and maintenance for the entire ClusterStor base. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

China’s TianHe-2A will Use Proprietary Accelerator and Boast 94 Petaflops Peak

September 25, 2017

The details of China’s upgrade to TianHe-2 (MilkyWay-2) – now TianHe-2A – were revealed last week at the Third International High Performance Computing Fo Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Machine Learning at HPC User Forum: Drilling into Specific Use Cases

September 22, 2017

The 66th HPC User Forum held September 5-7, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the elegant and historic Pfister Hotel, highlighting the 1893 Victorian décor and art o Read more…

By Arno Kolster

Stanford University and UberCloud Achieve Breakthrough in Living Heart Simulations

September 21, 2017

Cardiac arrhythmia can be an undesirable and potentially lethal side effect of drugs. During this condition, the electrical activity of the heart turns chaotic, Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud, and Francisco Sahli, Stanford University

PNNL’s Center for Advanced Tech Evaluation Seeks Wider HPC Community Ties

September 21, 2017

Two years ago the Department of Energy established the Center for Advanced Technology Evaluation (CENATE) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). CENAT Read more…

By John Russell

Exascale Computing Project Names Doug Kothe as Director

September 20, 2017

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) has named Doug Kothe as its new director effective October 1. He replaces Paul Messina, who is stepping down after two years to return to Argonne National Laboratory. Kothe is a 32-year veteran of DOE’s National Laboratory System. Read more…

Takeaways from the Milwaukee HPC User Forum

September 19, 2017

Milwaukee’s elegant Pfister Hotel hosted approximately 100 attendees for the 66th HPC User Forum (September 5-7, 2017). In the original home city of Pabst Blu Read more…

By Merle Giles

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

GlobalFoundries: 7nm Chips Coming in 2018, EUV in 2019

June 13, 2017

GlobalFoundries has formally announced that its 7nm technology is ready for customer engagement with product tape outs expected for the first half of 2018. The Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This