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JoshCarp's picture
I found a neat article on an unlikely connection between physics and math--a similarity between energy levels of nuclei of heavy elements and Riemann's zeta function. I don't know the first thing about math or physics, but maybe someone with more background can say something interesting about this.


LauraKasakoff's picture

That article was very interesting; however I think it left out a lot of important details necessary to understand exactly what progress has been made for solving Riemann's hypothesis with quantum physics. I have always thought that the answer to the universe could be found within a study of prime numbers (throwback to Contact!), but I don't think the author Marcus Du Sautoy gives enough background even for novices to gain a sense of this potential to prove the Riemann hypothesis. I know this course is supposed to foster a predisposition for interdisciplinary connections, but I still feel skeptical that physics can provide answers about prime numbers. The article was not convincing. I think in actuality it could be a deeper understanding of prime numbers that will give rise to breakthroughs in quantum physics. But as a math major I'm biased. ;) I don't think Du Sautoy's overview does justice to the real issues. If you are interested in exploring the connection further, Wolfram to the rescue!!! The following are some links from MathWorld that give nice pictures and shed light on the: Also, MathWorld creator Eric W. Weisstein writes a nice article on prime numbers and some unsolved problems. It is interesting that the importance of prime numbers "emerges" in so many other disciplines.
SunnySingh's picture

I can't believe I didn't see this thread sooner! I have always wondered if there were any connections between physics and pure mathematics, like number theory. This search has always ended with no avail...until I read this! I agree with Laura about the significance of prime numbers in our world. I believe there is something going on with the distribution of prime numbers on the real line (ie the Riemann Hypothesis/Zeta Function), but I believe our current understanding is only scratching the surface. Laura, if the answer to the universe can be found through the study of primes, does that imply that primes "govern" the universe? If so, doesn't that mean quantum mechanics is subsequently governed by primes? Provided that this is the case, then maybe quantum mechanics can tell us something about primes/the Riemann Hypothesis. I admit, I live in a world wrapped in the romantic belief of a Theory of Everything and I really believe pursuing the connection between quantum mechanics and number theory could lead to a paradigm shift in the way we view both disciplines. I'm still churning through this article, but I think it might elucidate on things mentioned in Josh's article. Here's another page with a collection of information on this topic. To echo what du Sautoy said in his Book, "The Music of Primes", "We have all this evidence that the Riemann zeros are vibrations, but we don't know what's doing the vibrating."