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Name: Javier
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Country: Chile
Date: Fall 2013

I have got a question about the search for prime numbers. When people look for the biggest prime numbers with computers (like the GIMPS), they only looking for Mersenne primes? When they found the largest known prime number some time ago, it was a Mersenne prime, but does that mean that in between Mersenne primes, there could be more prime numbers that are not Mersenne? Is there a way to find non-Mersenne prime numbers with computers?

Hi Javier,

Thanks for the question. I am not sure of what types of numbers the GIMPS system is looking for. In order to answer your question, one would need to look at the computer code for the programs that are run. I will say that there is a limit to the size of numbers which computers can work with. This limit is inherent and due to the finite memory of a computer. This limit is a practical one and can possibly be overcome using distributed computing.

Thanks Jeff Grell

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