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Year in Review: Progress made toward twin prime proof

Surprising advance sparks flurry of work on mathematical conjecture


Some pan for gold, some pan for prime numbers. Yitang “Tom” Zhang may have found both.

Zhang, a mathematician at the University of New Hampshire, stunned the mathematical world in May when he reported a major step toward solving one of the oldest outstanding problems in number theory, called the twin prime conjecture (SN: 10/19/13, p. 38).

For more than 100 years, mathematicians have known that prime numbers — such as 7 or 17, with no divisors except for themselves and 1 — get sparser and sparser as the numbers get larger. They are like flecks of gold in a stream that is gradually running out of gold.

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