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In the movie Contact based on the novel of the same name by Carl Sagan, Dr. Ellie Arroway searches for intelligent extraterrestrial life by scanning the sky with radio telescopes. When Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, recognizes prime numbers in an interplanetary signal, she believes it’s proof that an alien intelligence has sent the human race a message.
A number is considered prime if it is only divisible by one and itself. For example, two, three, five and seven are prime. The number 15, which is three times five, is not prime. It’s no coincidence that Arroway believes the aliens in Contact use prime numbers as a cosmic “hello” — they are building blocks of other numbers. Every number is a product of primes.
In December 2017, the largest known prime number was discovered using a computer search. The prime was discovered by…
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