Did you read Cédric Villani’s Birth of a Theorem? Did you have the same reaction as me, that all of the mentions of the technical details were incredibly impressive, doubtless meaningful to those in the know, but ultimately unenlightening?
Writing about maths, especially deep technical maths, so that a reader can follow along with it is hard – the Venn diagram of the set of people who can write clearly and the set of people who understand the maths, two relatively small sets, has a yet smaller intersection.
The big news last year was the quest to find a lower bound for the gap between pairs of large primes, started by Yitang Zhang and carried on chiefly by Terry Tao and the fresh-faced James Maynard.
Now that progress on the twin prime conjecture has slowed down, they’ve both turned their attentions toward the opposite question: what’s the biggest gap between subsequent small primes?
There’s been some progress on the bounded gaps between primes front since we last checked in.
The Polymath8 project has got the gap down to $4,680$. But that’s small beans: James Maynard, a postgrad student at Oxford, announced at a meeting in Oberwolfach that he has got the gap down to $700$. Emmanuel Kowalski has written an effusive post on his blog singing the praises of Maynard’s achievement.