UNH prof on how to tackle a problem that is literally infinite: Think – a lot
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, May 20, 2013
UNH professor Tom Zhang's proof of a weak version of the twin-prime conjecture - one of those important, old, hard to prove yet easy to understand math problems - came last week, as I noted in a blog post, but there's plenty for mathematics fans like me (and you too, I trust) to chew over.
I interviewed Zhang last week - a bit reluctantly on his part since he's obviously uncofmrtable with even minor celebrity-hood - and enjoyed the talk, although I wasn't able to understand the methods of his proof at all.
I wrote about him in my Telegraph column this week (check it out here). Here's the lede, to whet your appetite:
How do you do your job? This is how Tom Zhang does his:
“I just start to think about the question. I walk around the room, maybe outside,” said Zhang, a UNH mathematics professor who drew global attention last week for making a big step toward solving a number-theory problem that dates back to the ancient Greeks. “The most important thing is to keep thinking, for hours, for days, for weeks, for months, whenever you have time. ... Even when I’m sleeping.”