I’m actually starting to get into the spirit of the season, believe it or not.
Part of the reason is that I got an early sort-of-but-not-really “Christmas present” over the weekend, which will be blogged in due time.
And then there’s this, which I think is really cool:
…mathematicians have made the first substantial progress in 76 years on the reverse question: How far apart can consecutive primes be? The average spacing between primes approaches infinity as you travel up the number line, but in any finite list of numbers, the biggest prime gap could be much larger than the average. No one has been able to establish how large these gaps can be.
Besides the fact that I have an amateur interest in prime numbers, this is also a famous Paul Erdős problem.
Even cooler: one of the guys who solved this problem, Terence Tao, has a direct connection to Erdős:
In 1985, Tao, then a 10-year-old prodigy, met Erdős at a math event. “He treated me as an equal,” recalled Tao, who in 2006 won a Fields Medal, widely seen as the highest honor in mathematics. “He talked very serious mathematics to me.” This is the first Erdős prize problem Tao has been able to solve, he said. “So that’s kind of cool.”
(Someone on my Christmas list is getting this as part of their present; I’ll let you know how that goes over.)