SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY

# Mathematicians Come Closer to Solving Goldbach's Weak Conjecture

from *Nature News *

One of the oldest unsolved problems in mathematics is also among the easiest to grasp. The weak Goldbach conjecture says that you can break up any odd number into the sum of, at most, three prime numbers (numbers that cannot be evenly divided by any other number except themselves or 1).

Mathematician Terence Tao of the University of California, Los Angeles, has now inched toward a proof. He has shown that one can write odd numbers as sums of, at most, five primes--and he is hopeful about getting that down to three. Besides the sheer thrill of cracking a nut that has eluded some of the best minds in mathematics for nearly three centuries, Tao says, reaching that coveted goal might lead mathematicians to ideas useful in real life--for example, for encrypting sensitive data.

The weak Goldbach conjecture was proposed by 18th-century mathematician Christian Goldbach. It is the sibling of a statement concerning even numbers, named the strong Goldbach conjecture but actually made by his colleague, mathematician Leonhard Euler. The strong version says that every even number larger than 2 is the sum of two primes. As its name implies, the weak version would follow if the strong were true: to write an odd number as a sum of three primes, it would be sufficient to subtract 3 from it and apply the strong version to the resulting even number.

# Connect With Us:

# Latest Multimedia

**
PODCASTS: From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays
**

Cosmic rays have mysterious qualities about them that scientists continue to research in order to better understand their origins and composition. Dr. Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues, fly enormous balloons as large as a football stadium and a volume of 40-million-cubic feet for extended periods over Antarctica to study particles coming from cosmic rays before they break up in the atmosphere.

*
To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia."
*

Tweets by @AmSciMag

# RSS Feed Subscription

Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

**Of Possible Interest**

**Science In The News Daily**: Distant Planets, Protein Folding, and Esoteric Mathematics Net Shaw Prizes

**Science In The News Daily**: Falling Stout Bubbles Explained

**Science In The News Daily**: A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity