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Prime conjecture verified to new heights

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12:45pm, April 14, 2003

Like the elements in chemistry, prime numbers serve as building blocks in the mathematics of whole numbers. Evenly divisible only by themselves and one, primes are a rich source of speculative ideas that mathematicians often find simple to state but difficult to prove.

The Goldbach conjecture, devised by historian and mathematician Christian Goldbach in 1742, proposes that every even number is the sum of two primes; for example, 8 = 3 + 5. No one has yet proved the conjecture, but a researcher in Germany has now verified that all even numbers up to 4 x 1014 satisfy this relationship.

Jürg Richstein of the Institute of Informatics at the University of Giessen reports his results in a paper to be published in Mathematics of Computation. He used a variant of an older method, making it possible to perform the computations with a network of relatively modest computers.

"Such computations prove the truth of the Goldbach conjecture for a finite set of even

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