20050425, 16:32  #1 
823_{16} Posts 
Why Search for these Huge Primes?
Hi there,
I'm writing a story and one of my characters is a mathematician. He is looking for the next Mersenne Prime (yes, I'll be mentioning GIMPS). Another character, who knows little about math and is a "practical person" asks him, "What's the point?" How can my character respond about a practical reason for searching for Mersenne prime? So far I would mention the following  the world record, searching for that lucrative prizewinning prime, the finding of perfect numbers, but I'd really like to be able to point to a really practical application. I am NOT a mathematician and don't understand a lot about it  I chose Mersenne primes because 2^n1 is simple enough for me to comprehend! I know that large prime numbers are used in certain encryption applications, but I don't know whether Mersenne primes specifically would be useful for this purpose. Does anyone have any ideas as to how my character should respond? Thank you! :) Susan 
20050425, 17:21  #2  
Jun 2003
The Texas Hill Country
3^{2}×11^{2} Posts 
Quote:
Since there are very few Mersenne Primes, I don't see any way that they could be effectively used for encryption. It was a nice thought, but you will need to find some other use. Good luck on your story. Richard 

20050425, 20:59  #3 
Sep 2002
2×331 Posts 
A side use of the Prime95 program is to test the stability/fitness of the PC.
There is a test mode (number of torture tests) that will test the PC with known correct results of certain Mersenne numbers, with error messages that declare a PC has hardware errors. This is valuable for finding/testing RAM (many times the RAM is very marginal, this can detect it). Also good for testing if a CPU has an issue such as insufficient cooling (fan/heatsink coated in dust, not enough airflow), voltage too low,thermal paste too much/little. Valuable for finding if the PC is prone to overheating. If bought in winter you might not find out until the heat of summer that the PC needs to remove more heat to run OK. If a PC can run a few days in the torture test without errors, it is very likely stable with correctly working main components. Running the actual Mersenne primality tests take more time and also record errors that can help determine the PC's level of stability/ability to correctly do very large computations. 
20050425, 21:32  #4  
P90 years forever!
Aug 2002
Yeehaw, FL
2^{2}×5×397 Posts 
Quote:


20050425, 22:22  #5 
Jul 2004
Potsdam, Germany
3·277 Posts 
In addition, it's pretty easy to guess which prime number has been taken.

20050426, 00:01  #6  
P90 years forever!
Aug 2002
Yeehaw, FL
17404_{8} Posts 
Quote:


20050426, 01:54  #7  
Tribal Bullet
Oct 2004
3545_{10} Posts 
Quote:
Plus: 2. By the time your code is fast enough to really do the search efficiently, you've learned enough to be a worldclass programmer 3. Searching for Mersenne primes requires FFTs. FFTs appear everywhere in the real world. Your FFTs are faster than just about everyone else's. You never know what may spin off from your work. Thomas Nicely found a hardware problem in the Pentium's floating point divider in the process of (I think) calculating Brun's constant. "What's the point?" is a more polite version of another question: "why does what you do for a living matter?". I think most people would bristle at such a question. jasonp 

20050426, 14:25  #8 
17·347 Posts 
Thank you everyone,
All of your responses will be very helpful, especially the list you linked to, Jason. I hope my question doesn't come across wrong  that I didn't cause anyone to 'bristle' :) . Personally I think the whole idea is incredibly cool. It was the really tangible, less pureknowledge applications that I was having trouble expressing, and you guys really helped. Susan 
20050427, 00:55  #9  
Tribal Bullet
Oct 2004
5×709 Posts 
Quote:
'What good is that', and it never gets easier jasonp 

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