A Mathematical Breakthrough: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture

May 1, 2017

Premiering Saturday, May 6 at 1pm on THIRTEEN, Counting From Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture centers on an exciting string of mathematical discoveries. It began in April 2013 when Yitang “Tom” Zhang, a virtually unknown mathematician working as an adjunct professor at the University of New Hampshire, submitted a paper to the Annals of Mathematics. Zhang had made an important breakthrough in Number Theory by solving the Twin Prime Conjecture (pairs of prime numbers that differ by two).

His work, Small Gaps Between Primes, was immediately recognized as an important mathematical break- through, and Zhang became an instant celebrity — a role for which he was unprepared. The film documents Zhang’s quiet perseverance amidst adversity, and his preference for thinking and working in solitude.

Zhang’s story is interwoven with a history of the Twin Prime Conjecture as told by several mathematicians, many of whom have wrestled with this challenging problem: Daniel Goldston, Kannan Soundararajan, Andrew Granville, Peter Sarnak, Enrico Bombieri and James Maynard.

By chronicling the series of rapid developments around the twin prime problem in 2013, and the many individuals who contributed to it, the film offers a glimpse at how mathematics progresses. A snapshot of a great moment in mathematical history, Counting From Infinity is at once a biographical portrait of a unique individual and the exciting story of his discovery.

Mathematician Yitang Zhang.

Mathematician Yitang Zhang. Photo credit: George Csicsery © 2015, Zala Films