Prime Discovery

The largest prime number has been discovered by a cleaner at the University of Missouri. "I was mopping behind some sort of computer doohicky and it just fell out," said Mrs Sheila Rutherford, who has worked at the University for over ten years. "A great big long thing, it was, with loads of numbers in it and all sort of wriggly."

Thinking that she might have damaged something important, Mrs Rutherford at first tried to push the prime number back into the machine. When this proved impossible she asked one of the security staff, Kieran McCall, to help her and that was when she first realised the importance of her amazing discovery.

"Kieran 's lovely," Mrs Rutherford explained. "He usually helps me fill my bucket, so I asked if he'd come and give me a hand. When he saw this thing, he recognised what it was straight away. 'It's a prime number' he said. 'It's a what?' I said. 'A prime number,' he said. 'What's one of those?' I said. 'It's one of those things they've been looking for,' he said and then he told me that the University would probably be very grateful and that I'd likely get a reward or something. And I did, which is nice, because it means I can go and see my sister in Florida."

The number has yet to be verified as genuine, but University authorities say that this is just a formality and plans are being drawn up for it to feature in a special exhibition this spring. It will join a selection of hyperreal numbers that were found in an attic in Minnesota in 1982 and Fermat's last theorem which was famously discovered wedged down the back of a radiator in 1995, after being lost for more than 350 years.

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