Mathematicians have uncovered a big new piece of evidence for one of the most famous unproven ideas in mathematics, known as the twin prime conjecture. But the route they took to finding that evidence probably won't help prove the twin prime conjecture itself.
The twin prime conjecture is all about how and when prime numbers — numbers that are divisible only by themselves and 1 — appear on the number line. "Twin primes" are primes that are two steps apart from each other on that line: 3 and 5, 5 and 7, 29 and 31, 137 and 139, and so on. The twin prime conjecture states that there are infinitely many twin primes, and that you'll keep encountering them no matter how far down the number line you go. It also states that there are infinitely many prime pairs with every other possible gap between them (prime pairs that are four steps apart, eight steps apart, 200,000 steps apart, etc.). Mathematicians are pretty sure this is true. It sure seems like it's true. And if it weren't true, it would mean that prime numbers aren't as random as everyone thought, which would mess up lots of ideas about how numbers work in general. But no one's ever been able to prove it.
It's all about the polynomials...
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