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The Beauty of Bounded Gaps: A huge discovery about prime numbers and what it means for the future of mathematics

by Jordan Ellenberg

Year of Award: 2014

Publication Information: Math Horizons, Vol. 21, no. 1, September 2013, pp. 5-7.

Summary (adapted from the MAA Prizes and Awards booklet for MathFest 2014): In this article, we learn about Yitang “Tom” Zhang’s breakthrough in proving what the mathematical community long suspected—that even though prime numbers are less common as they get larger, for any positive integer \(N\) there is a pair of primes bigger than \(N\) within a certain fixed distance \(D\) of each other.

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About the Author: (From the MathFest 2014 MAA Prizes and Awards Booklet)

Jordan Ellenberg grew up in Potomac, Maryland, the son of two statisticians. He got undergraduate (1993) and doctoral (1998) degrees at Harvard with a master’s degree in creative writing in between. Since 2005 he has been at the University of Wisconsin, where he is now the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Mathematics. His research areas center on number theory and algebraic geometry, with recent excursions into algebraic topology and representation theory. He has held a Sloan Foundation Fellowship and an NSF -CAREER award and is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He has also written articles for the general public for newspapers and magazines including Slate, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and The Believer, and is the author of the 2014 book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, a New York Times best seller.

Subject classification(s): Algebra and Number Theory | Number Theory | Primes
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, August 12, 2014