Prime numbers are the most fundamental objects in mathematics, and wrangling them involves a paradoxical blend of simplicity and complexity that has become a lifelong obsession for James Maynard, one that has consumed him to the point where he sometimes strips everyday life of all distractions.
In his lecture, Maynard explained the fascinations and frustrations of primes, which are only divisible by themselves and one and are often described as the ‘atoms’ of number theory: you can write any other whole number as a product of these prime numbers, so the number 24 is 2 x 2 x 2 x 3, and 110 can be written as 2 x 5 x 11, for example.
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