Two Elusive Prime Number Problems Solved

Top 100 Stories of 2013#7 After centuries of flummoxing number crunchers, two mathematical puzzles about prime numbers were cracked this year.By Julie RehmeyerPrime numbers — those divisible only by 1 and the number itself, like 5, 11 or 37 — are…

Top 100 Stories of 2013#7 After centuries of flummoxing number crunchers, two mathematical puzzles about prime numbers were cracked this year.By Julie RehmeyerPrime numbers — those divisible only by 1 and the number itself, like 5, 11 or 37 — are like the atoms of mathematics: All numbers are formed by multiplying these building blocks together. 

But what happens when you add a number to a prime number? When will the sum be prime? Or, conversely, when is a number a sum of primes? Mathematicians have been working to answer these fundamental questions for centuries, and on the same day in May, two mathematicians finally found tantalizing partial answers to both of them…The full text of this article is available to DISCOVER Magazine subscribers only.Subscribe and get 10 issues packed with:The latest news, theories and developments in the world of scienceCompelling stories and breakthroughs in health, medicine and the mindEnvironmental issues and their relevance to daily lifeCutting-edge technology and its impact on our futureSUBSCRIBE TODAY »Already a subscriber? Register now!
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