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PKU alumnus tastes the infinity of prime pairs

MAY . 20 2013

Peking University, May 17, 2013: Zhang Yitang, B.S.’82 in Math from Peking University (PKU), recently made an important contribution to solving the twin prime conjecture.


Prof. Zhang Yitang


Professor Zhang’s proof of a “weak” version of the conjecture is set for publication in the Annals of Mathematics in a few weeks. The contribution is published by Nature on its webpage, titled First proof that infinitely many prime numbers come in pairs.


The twin prime conjecture is a longstanding question in mathematics that has puzzled countless bright minds throughout the ages.  The conjecture says that there is an infinite number of prime “twin pairs” — pairs of prime numbers that differ in value by 2 — such as (3, 5) and (29, 31). However, it hasn’t been proven thus far.


After many years and efforts devoted by countless mathematicians, Zhang Yitang was able to prove that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart. What’s remarkable about the discovery is that Zhang relied on standard mathematical techniques.


“I was doubtful I would ever live to see this result,” said Dan Goldston, an analytic number theorist at San Jose State University in California.


Professor Zhang’s study career at PKU dates back to 1982, when he earned a bachelor's degree from the former Department of Mathematics and Mechanics, which was then involved into the existing School of Mathematical Sciences. With a following  master’s degree, Zhang left PKU for Purdue University in the USA. He is now teaching at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.


Written by: Jiang Zhaohui

Edited by: Arthars

Source: PKU News (Chinese)