New technologies create new possibilities. Early in 1999, John B. Cosgrave, using off-the-shelf mathematical software and mathematical ideas due to H. C. Pocklington, found a prime number with exactly 2000 digits. With the year 2000 on the horizon, it was inevitable that the number of digits would be related to the millennium. Cosgrave himself called it his "millennium prime," and its discovery garnered him some attention. For example, Ivars Peterson mentioned it in one of his MathTrek columns.
Excited by his discovery, Cosgrave wrote a long email message to his niece and nephew explaining some of the ideas that led to the discovery of the millennium prime. This email message now forms the major portion of the booklet A Prime for the Millennium, published by Folding Landscapes Press in Ireland. The booklet is charming, the story well told, and profits from the sales go to the Irish Cancer Society. Not a bad deal at all; check it out.
Fernando Gouvêa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. His special interests include number theory, history of mathematics, science fiction, and Christian theology.