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Smallest Prime Number Discovered, Soon After Largest
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DETROIT - Wallace Bonownski says you don't have to have 200,000 computers and a grad student to discover a new prime number. "You just gotta use yer thinker, is all," said the Michigan State University groundskeeper. "I heard about Michael's big find, and I thought, 'Hey, if that's the largest prime number, then I'll bet the negative version would be the smallest. And I discovered it!'"

Bonownski is referring to the distributed computing project participated in by a PC owned by Michael Shafer, a grad student at MSU. The student reported last week that his computer had found the largest prime number in a class of primes called "Mersenne primes". These are expressed as a power of 2, in Shafer's case it is 2 to the 20,996,011th power minus 1. (2 is the only even prime number.) "So my number is -2 to the power of that 20 million. Or 2 to the negative power of it. Something," said Bonownski.

"Mr. Bonownski clearly doesn't understand what he's talking about," said Professor of Advanced Mathematics Fred Quimby, "Negative primes are discussed, they exist if you want them to, but some professors don't even bother mentioning them. This ploy reminds me of the child's game of 'Infinity plus one!'"

"My husband is a smart man, make no mistake," said Mrs. Evelyn Bonownski, wife of Mr. Bonownski, "He looked up from the paper night before last and said, 'Eve, I've done it! What's that word? Erika?' I told him I thought he meant, 'Eureka.' He said he wasn't sure if that was it or not. But he was quite excited to tell someone about what he'd come up with." Apparently he called his cousin, Asdin Bonownski, that knows a reporter working for The Michigan Morning Sun. The reporter accepted the story and ran it with little fact-checking. The Associated Press picked it up from there.

"Well, like I said before, there were a couple hundred thousand computers working on it," said Michael Shafer, "so I didn't really discover it. It was discovered by the particular 200,000th of the total computing power that happened to be running on my machine at the time. I can assure you, I won't see a dime from it. And I'm sure the groundskeeper won't either."

"I guess that's my point, though," said Bonownski, "he had a monster computer helping him. I figured mine out on my own. That's gotta be worth somethin'."
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