Two To The Power Of Seventy Four Million Two Hundred And Seven Thousand Two Hundred Eighty One Minus One
M74207281 is the largest known prime number. Represented in scientific notation, the number is 2^74207281-1. Written out, the number is “two to the power of seventy-four million, two hundred seven thousand, two hundred eighty-one, minus one.” Found in January 2016 by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, it is 22.3 million digits long.
Each of the volumes of 2^74207281-1 is over 1300 pages long for a combined total of 3982 pages of the number’s digits. Despite the apparent randomness of prime numbers, the digits have significance whether we recognize the numbers as prime or not. G.H. Hardy wrote, “317 is a prime number not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way or another but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.”
Like the books in Borges’ Library of Babel whose seemingly random letters and punctuation served as building blocks for the basis of language and the universe, the digits within 2^74207281-1 reveal the universe’s mathematical structure. Everything in the universe, including humanity, is part of this structure. All matter is made of particles which have properties of charge and spin; these properties are essentially mathematical. Notwithstanding their apparent simplicity and fundamental character, prime numbers remain one of the most mysterious objects studied by mathematicians. The impossible task of the series is to present the number in such a way that it may reveal some insight into the nature of prime numbers.