The Power of Primes

Thanks to Markus Spiske @markusspiske for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Math is about patterns, and our universe is extraordinarily patterned. In this article, we’ll explore more on the topic of primes and how it plays a role in our everyday lives.

You have heard about them before: primes. They sound like a kind of elite club and in some ways, they are. A prime number is a number that is divisible only by itself and 1.

Examples include: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97, and these are just numbers up to 100. There has been no upper limit to the largest prime number to date.

On the other hand, the number 2 has the privilege of being the smallest prime number and also the only even prime number.
This is great and all, but what use are prime numbers in the real world?

Now, this is the really cool part. They’re used to keep data safe on the Internet. Here’s how it works:

When you make a secure transaction online, for example, ordering groceries, paying for your tuition fees, or sending bank transfers, your transmitted data is kept safe through a process called encryption.

During encryption, 2 extremely large prime numbers (over a hundred digits long) are generated and multiplied to produce an even larger prime number that acts like a secret passkey to encrypt the information sent and received.

This prime number is so large that it would take decades or longer for someone trying every single combination possible to uncover.

Encryption keeps online transactions safe and allows for a robust and vibrant business community on the Internet.

So the next time you buy something online or make an Internet transfer, think of prime numbers and how awesome they are as the unbreachable gatekeepers of your critical data.

For more about primes, check out this site:

– Christina Sng for Maths@Singapore

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