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Not mentioned on The Aperiodical, March 2016

There’s been a lot of maths news this month, but we’ve all been too busy to keep up with it. So, in case you missed anything, here’s a summary of the biggest stories this month. We’ve got two new facts about primes, the best way of packing spheres in lots of dimensions, and the ongoing debate about the place of maths in society, as well as the place of society in maths.

A surprisingly simple pattern in the primes

Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver have noticed that the last digits of adjacent prime numbers aren’t uniformly distributed – if one prime ends in a 1, for example, the next prime number is less likely to end in a 1 than another odd digit. Top maths journos Evelyn Lamb and Erica Klarreich have both written very accessible pieces about this, in the Nature blog and Quanta magazine, respectively.

Oliver and Soundararajan’s paper on the discovery is titled “Unexpected biases in the distribution of consecutive primes”.

Twin primes go to Washington

This isn’t new, but it just came to my attention and it’s fun: US Representative Jerry McNerney, an engineer by trade, got so excited by the recent twin prime conjecture advances that he just had to tell the rest of the House about it.

[youtube url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh6GCY9i6tY]

I don’t know how the American parliament works – did a constituent ask Rep McNerney to talk about this, or do politicians regularly just talk about their interests?

Prime gaps update

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.

Bound on prime gaps bound decreasing by leaps and bounds

Update 17/06/2013: The gap is down to 60,744. That’s a whole order of magnitude down from where it started!

When Yitang Zhang unexpectedly announced a proof that that there are infinitely many pairs of primes less than 70 million apart from each other – a step on the way to the twin primes conjecture – certain internet wags amused themselves and a minority of others with the question, “is it a bigger jump from infinity to 70 million, or from 70 million to 2?”.

Of course the answer is that it’s a really short distance from 70 million to 2, and here’s my evidence: the bound of 70 million has in just over three weeks been reduced to just a shade over 100,000.

“Bounded gaps between primes” by Yitang Zhang now available

To complete the story started as a rumour report in ‘Primes gotta stick together‘ and confirmed in ‘Primes really do stick together‘, here we report that Annals of Mathematics has posted the PDF of ‘Bounded gaps between primes‘ by Yitang Zhang on its ‘to appear in forthcoming issues’ page. After the seminar on 13th May, Zhang apparently submitted a revised manuscript on 16 May, which was accepted 21 May 2013. So if you’ve been itching for details, here’s your chance (assuming you have access to a subscription to Annals).

Here’s the abstract:

It is proved that \[ \liminf_{n\to \infty}\, (p_{n+1} – p_n) < 7 \times 10^7 \text{,}\] where $p_n$ is the $n$-th prime.

Our method is a refinement of the recent work of Goldston, Pintz and Yildirim on the small gaps between consecutive primes. A major ingredient of the proof is a stronger version of the Bombieri-Vinogradov theorem that is applicable when the moduli are free from large prime divisors only (see Theorem 2), but it is adequate for our purpose.

The paper: Bounded gaps between primes by Yitang Zhang, in Annals of Mathematics.

Primes really do stick together

pairs

“The author has succeeded to prove a landmark theorem in the distribution of prime numbers. … We are very happy to strongly recommend acceptance of the paper for publication in the Annals.”

According to the Nature News blog, at yesterday’s seminar given by Yitang Zhang it was revealed that his proof that there are infinitely many pairs of primes less than seventy million apart has already been refereed for the Annals of Mathematics; that’s a quote from the referee’s report above.

It seems the proof doesn’t use any unconventional machinery (in contrast to Mochizuki’s Proof from Planet 9 of the abc conjecture) and is fairly uncontroversial. How pleasant! Of course, someone might find a problem with it once it’s publicly available, but that’s the way for all things.

Source: First proof that infinitely many prime numbers come in pairs at Nature News

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