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Cushing your luck: properties of randomly chosen numbers

Long-time Aperiodical muse David Cushing has made a bet with us that he can give us an interesting post every Friday for the next ten weeks. Every week that he sends a post, we buy him a bar of chocolate. Every week that he doesn’t send us a post, he buys us a bar of chocolate. For his first trick, David is going to do some unnatural things with the natural numbers.

The greatest common divisor (gcd) of two or more integers is the greatest integer that evenly divides those integers. For example, the gcd of $8$ and $12$ is $4$ (usually written as $\gcd(8,12)=4$). Two integers are called coprime (or “relatively prime”) if their gcd is equal to $1$.

A reasonable question to ask is,

Given two randomly chosen integers $a$ and $b$, what is the probability that $\gcd(a,b)=1$?

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.

On equivalent forms of the weak Goldbach conjecture

Harald Helfgott has announced a proof of the odd Goldbach conjecture (also known as the ternary or weak Goldbach conjecture). This is big news. Like a good maths newshound, Christian Perfect promptly wrote this up for The Aperiodical as “All odd integers greater than 7 are the sum of three odd primes!

Wait, though, there’s a problem. As Relinde Jurrius pointed out on Twitter, the formulation used in the paper abstract was not quite the same.

The ternary Goldbach conjecture, or three-primes problem, asserts that every odd integer $N$ greater than $5$ is the sum of three primes. The present paper proves this conjecture.

The version Christian used makes the assertion using odd primes, whereas the paper abstract only claims “the sum of three primes”. The latter version includes $7$ because $7$ can be written as the sum of three primes, but not odd ones ($7 = 3+2+2$). Certainly, you can see both statements of the weak Goldbach conjecture used (for example, here’s the $\gt 5$ version and here’s the $\gt 7$ version). Are they equivalent?

2² number theory tricks

Here are some nice number facts and tricks you can try out on your friends. They will work without understanding how, but with a little investigation you should be able to figure out how each one works.

Primes gotta stick together

Update 14/05/2013: The seminar was successful: Zhang announced that his proof has already been refereed for the Annals, and everyone seems happy with it.

Hard Maths news now: there’s a rumour going round that Yitang (Tom) Zhang of the University of New Hampshire reckons he can prove that there are infinitely many different pairs of primes at most 70,000,000 apart.

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