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NEW PRIME NUMBER MAY BE A WHOPPER BUT ALSO WORTHLESS

A computer scientist whose program led to the discovery of the largest known prime number says the figure fills 32 pages of computer paper - and may be completely useless.

"Those 32 pages don't mean anything to us," David Slowinski said. "We couldn't look at it and discover anything. Not that I know of."Nevertheless, the number that begins 174 135 906 820 087 097 325 and goes on and on for 227,832 digits is no ordinary prime number, he said: It's a Mersenne prime - only the 32nd ever found.

Mersenne primes are named after Father Marin Mersenne, a 17th-century French monk who found the first few of them.

A prime number is one that can be divided evenly only by one and itself.