5 April 1999

Cyber Science Prize!

Geeks sponsor Science Prize!

In an exciting move the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced it is sponsoring an award, to encourage Internet users to assist in solving 'huge' scientific problems.

According to Tara Lemmey, EFF's Executive Director ,"We're providing incentives to stretch the computational capabilities of the Internet�We hope to spur the technology of cooperative networking and encourage Internet users worldwide to join together in solving scientific problems involving massive computation. EFF is uniquely situated to sponsor these awards, since part of our mission is to encourage the harmonious integration of Internet innovations into the whole of society,". The half million dollars in prizes will be awarded for discovering huge prime numbers (prime numbers only divisible by one and themselves). The awards are:

First million-digit prime found $50,000, ten-million-digit prime $100,000, hundred-million-digit prime $150,000 and the first billion-digit prime $250,000!

So far the largest known prime number, discovered by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (http://www.mersenne.org/prime.htm), has 909,526 digits.

Finding these prime numbers will not be easy even with today's computational power (mathematicians have taken years to uncover and confirm new largest known primes). EFF is encouraging people to pool their computing power over the Internet, to work together to share this massive resource. In the process, EFF hopes to inspire experts to apply collaborative computing to large problems, and thereby foster new technologies and opportunities for everyone. To do this they want to link the millions of new computers which are built and sold each year, but sit idle much of the time, running screen savers or waiting for the user to do something.

According to John Gilmore, EFF co-founder and project leader for the awards "The approach that we're taking with prime numbers could be used for other scientific problems, such as analyzing the human genome, weather prediction, or searching for signs of life in space. In the long run, we hope to move beyond prizes," he said, "catalyzing a market where ordinary people can sell the spare time on their computers to others who need to compute something overnight on thousands or millions of machines. This would reduce the net cost of owning a personal computer, and open new opportunities in animation, product design, economics, science, and business."