Math enthusiasts rejoice – there is a new prime number on the block!
The mathematics news for this New Year is the discovery of a new prime number – the largest ever recorded. A prime number is greater than 1 and has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself, such as 7. Prime numbers differ from composite numbers (like 6), which have more than 1 factor pair (6 has the factor pairs 1 & 6 and 2 & 3).
Cryptography, the field of writing or breaking codes, relies on prime numbers to create encryption – a secret language through which information is stored and sent – and decryption – the method by which a code is broken. Examples of this information could be the data stored in a credit card chip or even Internet passwords. Many exciting STEM-oriented careers require candidates who are at least familiar with cryptography. Imagine being the officer in charge of U.S. Navy submarine or securing a position as a cyber-security specialist who is responsible for thwarting hacker threats.