Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematicsin the Popular Press

"Lucky Numbers: Is It Wise to Bet on Mathematical Progress?" by Jim Holt.Lingua Franca, July/August 2000.

In this piece, Jim Holt wonders whether the million dollar prize for provingGoldbach's conjecture (every even number greater than 2 can be written as thesum of two prime numbers) by March 2002 is a "wise bet". The publishers whooffered the prize are insured in this venture by Lloyd's of London. Thus theunderwriter also had to make a "bet" on whether the conjecture would be provedby the deadline. If there is a payoff, Holt hopes that the sum will be paid intwo parts: US$499,943 and US$500,057. Why did he choose those numbers?

--- Michael Breen