Earlier this month, we brought you the news that University of New Hampshire mathematician Yitang Zhang proved a weak version of the twin prime conjecture, showing that there is an endless supply of prime pairs which are separated by no more than 70,000,000. That seems like it’s a long way from proving the proper twin prime conjecture — showing an infinite number of primes separated by just two digits — but it might not be. In their latest video, the math whizzes at Numberphile offer a great layman’s explanation of what the twin prime conjecture is and what Zhang’s work means for it.
It turns out, when you’re dealing with the huge numbers that mathematicians work with, 70,000,000 and 2 aren’t really as far apart as they might seem. Huge numbers like googolplex can really mess with sense of scale that way. The Numberphile crew even points out that some researchers familiar with Zhang’s work see it as a stepping stone that could used to prove an infinite number of primes with as few as 16 numbers between them without a lot of reworking.
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