UNH professor solves ancient mathematics riddle
Who knows whether a mathematical breakthrough would equal box-office millions, but among those who crunch numbers for a career, Yitang Zhang has gone from relatively obscure to rock star status in four weeks, after word spread that he had taken a step toward solving one of the world's oldest mathematical problems.
Zhang said mathematicians like himself consider prime numbers to be the basis of all mathematics, similar to the periodic table in chemistry.
"The prime numbers are, by definition, very simple. But there are very deep mysteries about them, and been very difficult to prove this result," said Zhang, a lecturer in the department of mathematics for almost a decade.
"The jump from 2 to 70 million is nothing compared to the jump from 70 million to infinity," states an article in the journal Nature.
Zhang said had been thinking about the twin prime conjecture for three years with no success. He said the proof came to him while he was visiting a friend in Colorado on vacation.
"The idea is based on an accumulation of my thinking for several years," said Zhang. "I had tried various methods. To answer why others could not get it and I could, I may say that I had been working harder and never gave up."
After receiving word his paper had been accepted, Zhang was invited to give a lecture on his work at Harvard University.
Zhang said that, in the days since, he has received dozens of emails and requests to talk about his breakthrough. He said his new 'celebrity' status has been a bit "unnerving."
"There is really only interest from people in this field," said Zhang.
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