Math Basics

More About Numbers

What special number was recently factored?

In 2007, mathematicians from three institutions worked for eleven months to churn out the prime factors of a well-known, hard-to-factor number—which turned out to be 307 digits long. It was also called a “special number,” because it has a special mathematical form: close to a power of two. Mathematicians know it’s relatively easy to identify large prime numbers, but factoring (breaking down) a number into its prime components is very difficult. But the applications may be worth the time spent, especially for those people who work to safeguard our computer information with special encryption techniques. As for the next iteration to factor, scientists hope it won’t be long before this record is broken.


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