Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Prime Directive

As you know, gentle reader, in recent weeks, I have started listening to podcasts, rather than the radio, while performing my ablutions.

Well, I just happened to have run out of podcasts today, so I listened to Adam Spencer's breakfast program, instead.

I'm absolutely certain that the drying up of my river of podcasts was no random occurrence! No, it was the result of the universe conspiring to ensure that I heard Adam interviewing mathematician Terence Tao, Australia's only winner of the Fields Medal.

While Terry didn't have anything much of interest to say this morning, the interview alerted me to the fact that he's giving a public lecture tomorrow evening at my alma mater, the University of Sydney.

It's entitled "Structure and Randomness in the Prime Numbers", so it sounds like we may get to hear at least a soupçon regarding his work with Ben Green which culminated in the Green-Tao Theorem, that the sequence of prime numbers contains arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions.

See Mathworld for a short explanation of what that means.

The New York Times ran a nice, quite approachable article on Tao, covering his history and work back in March of 2007.

Finally, here's a short video about him. Annoyingly, it resizes your browser, so right click and open it in a separate window.

Hearing about the lecture has almost ... but not quite ... overshadowed the impending arrival of my MacBook Air :-).

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