Closing the Gap: The Polymath Project on Bounded Gaps Between Primes

Monday, February 15, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Coolidge (Marriott Wardman Park)
Andrew Sutherland, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
I will describe a large scale collaborative research effort in mathematics (a "polymath project") that recently achieved major progress on a celebrated question in number theory: are there infinitely many pairs of prime numbers that are separated by a gap of size at most H, for some fixed bound H? Mathematicians believe that this holds when H is 2 (this is the Twin Prime Conjecture), but until very recently no one could prove such a statement for any value of H. In 2013 Yitang Zhang achieved a stunning breakthrough with H at 70,000,000, and a worldwide collaboration that included both professional and amateur mathematicians, as well as scientists from other fields and many interested observers, has since reduced H to 246.