Mathematicians find a peculiar pattern in primes | Science News

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Mathematicians find a peculiar pattern in primes

Final digit in consecutive numbers is not as random as expected

By
3:58pm, March 18, 2016
prime numbers

PRIME TIME  Prime numbers are loathe to repeat the final digit of the prime that precedes them, a bias that has mathematicians scratching their heads.

Prime numbers, divisible only by 1 and themselves, hate to repeat themselves. They prefer not to mimic the final digit of the preceding prime, mathematicians have discovered.

“It is really, really bizarre,” says Stanford University postdoctoral researcher Robert Lemke Oliver, who, with Stanford number theorist Kannan Soundararajan, discovered this unusual prime predilection. “We are still trying to understand what is at the heart of this,” Lemke Oliver says.

Generally speaking, primes are thought to behave much like random numbers. So whenever some kind of order is revealed, it gives mathematicians pause.

“Any regularity you can show about primes is beguiling, because there may lurk there some new structure,” says number theorist Barry Mazur of Harvard University. “Revealing some bit of architecture where we thought there was none may lead to inroads into the structure of the mathematics.”

Once primes get into

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