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Electrons as math whizzes

Physicists hint that quantum systems could verify Riemann’s famous conjecture about prime numbers

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5:25pm, September 2, 2008
If two physicists are right, a single electron might know more about numbers than all of the world’s mathematicians. In an upcoming Physical Review Letters, the researchers hint that the dynamics of an electron can embody the solution to the nearly 150-year-old Riemann hypothesis, a crucial unsolved problem that has wide and deep consequences for number theory.

Germán Sierra of the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid and Paul Townsend of the University of Cambridge in England have proposed that when an electron is confined to moving in two dimensions, its possible energy level values might encode the key to the Riemann hypothesis.

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