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This may be subjective, but does anyone have any insight into why this is the case? This struck me while considering that it's also the eigth Mersenne prime (2^31-1=2147483647).

I'm now wondering why this might be the case.

UPDATE: It's been pointed out that the relationship doesn't necessarily hold for larger storage classes, e.g., 2^63 - 1 is not prime.

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Not for 64 bit, 63 is composite. –  Will Jagy Aug 27 '10 at 2:43
    
Thanks, good point. –  Joe Aug 27 '10 at 2:44
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I'm going to say that I doubt there's a reason...like Fermat's conjecture that $2^{2^n}+1$ is always prime, there can be a few random examples, but it doesn't always mean that there is a pattern. –  David Corwin Aug 27 '10 at 2:46
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127 is prime, but 255, 511, 1023, 2047, 4095 are composite. 8191 is prime again. 16383, 32767, 65535 are composite. 131071 is prime. –  Will Jagy Aug 27 '10 at 2:54
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It really would help if you switched to symbols. I think by largest unsigned value you mean $$ 2^{2^n} - 1 $$ which is always divisible by 3. –  Will Jagy Aug 27 '10 at 3:22
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Why is $3$ prime? I don't really know that there are meaningful answers to these kinds of questions. The best I can think of is some reasons it is not obviously composite, e.g. since $5$ is prime $2^5 - 1 = 31$ is not obviously composite (and it turns out to be prime) hence $2^{31} - 1$ is not obviously composite. This is two applications of the "lemma" that if $p$ is prime then $2^p - 1$ is not obviously composite.

Note that any prime factor of $2^p - 1$ has to be congruent to $1 \bmod p$ by Fermat's little theorem, so it is "easier" for such numbers to be prime.

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Thank you so much! –  Joe Aug 27 '10 at 3:33
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The Largest 64 bit prime is 18446744073709551557, according to http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee621251.aspx. See also http://primes.utm.edu/lists/2small/0bit.html

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