Prime gap

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Prime gap frequency distribution for primes up to 1.6 billion. Peaks occur at multiples of 6.[1]

A prime gap is the difference between two successive prime numbers. The n-th prime gap, denoted gn or g(pn) is the difference between the (n + 1)-th and the n-th prime numbers, i.e.

We have g1 = 1, g2 = g3 = 2, and g4 = 4. The sequence (gn) of prime gaps has been extensively studied, however many questions and conjectures remain unanswered.

The first 60 prime gaps are:

1, 2, 2, 4, 2, 4, 2, 4, 6, 2, 6, 4, 2, 4, 6, 6, 2, 6, 4, 2, 6, 4, 6, 8, 4, 2, 4, 2, 4, 14, 4, 6, 2, 10, 2, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, 2, 10, 2, 4, 2, 12, 12, 4, 2, 4, 6, 2, 10, 6, 6, 6, 2, 6, 4, 2, ... (sequence A001223 in the OEIS).

By the definition of gn every prime can be written as

Simple observations[edit]

The first, smallest, and only odd prime gap is the gap of size 1 between 2, the only even prime number, and 3, the first odd prime. All other prime gaps are even. There is only one pair of consecutive gaps having length 2: the gaps g2 and g3 between the primes 3, 5, and 7.

For any integer n, the factorial n! is the product of all positive integers up to and including n. Then in the sequence

the first term is divisible by 2, the second term is divisible by 3, and so on. Thus, this is a sequence of n − 1 consecutive composite integers, and it must belong to a gap between primes having length at least n − 1. It follows that there are gaps between primes that are arbitrarily large, that is, for any integer N, there is an integer m with gmN.

In reality, prime gaps of n numbers can occur at numbers much smaller than n!. For instance, the first prime gap of size larger than 14 occurs between the primes 523 and 541, while 15! is the vastly larger number 1307674368000.

Although the average gap between primes increases as the natural logarithm of the integer, the ratio of the prime gap to the integers involved decreases (and is asymptotically zero). This is a consequence of the prime number theorem. On the other hand, the ratio of the gap to the number of digits of the integers involved does increase without bound. This is a consequence of a result by Westzynthius.

In the opposite direction, the twin prime conjecture asserts that gn = 2 for infinitely many integers n.

Numerical results[edit]

As of March 2017 the largest known prime gap with identified probable prime gap ends has length 5103138, with 216849-digit probable primes found by Robert W. Smith.[2] This gap has merit M=10.2203. The largest known prime gap with identified proven primes as gap ends has length 1113106, with 18662-digit primes found by P. Cami, M. Jansen and J. K. Andersen.[3][4]

We say that gn is a maximal gap, if gm < gn for all m < n. As of August 2016 the largest known maximal gap has length 1476, found by Tomás Oliveira e Silva. It is the 75th maximal gap, and it occurs after the prime 1425172824437699411.[5] Other record maximal gap terms can be found at OEISA002386.

Usually the ratio of gn / ln(pn) is called the merit of the gap gn . In 1931, E. Westzynthius proved that maximal prime gaps grow more than logarithmically. That is,[6]

Largest known merit values (As of November 2016)[7][8][9]
Merit gn digits pn Date Discoverer
36.858288 10716 127 7910896513*283#/30 - 6480 2016 Dana Jacobsen
36.590183 13692 163 1037600971*383#/210 - 8776 2016 Dana Jacobsen
36.420568 26892 321 59740589*757#/210 - 14302 2016 Dana Jacobsen
35.424459 66520 816 1931*1933#/7230 - 30244 2012 Michiel Jansen
35.310308 1476 19 1425172824437699411 2009 Tomás Oliveira e Silva

As of November 2016, the largest known merit value, as discovered by D. Jacobsen, is 10716 / ln(7910896513*283#/30 - 6480) ≈ 36.858288 where 283# indicates the primorial of 283.[7] The endpoints are 127-digit primes.

The Cramér–Shanks–Granville ratio is the ratio of gn / (ln(pn))^2.[7] The greatest known value of this ratio is 0.9206386 for the prime 1693182318746371. Other record terms can be found at OEISA111943.

The first 75 maximal gaps
Number 1 to 25
# gn pn n
1 1 2 1
2 2 3 2
3 4 7 4
4 6 23 9
5 8 89 24
6 14 113 30
7 18 523 99
8 20 887 154
9 22 1,129 189
10 34 1,327 217
11 36 9,551 1,183
12 44 15,683 1,831
13 52 19,609 2,225
14 72 31,397 3,385
15 86 155,921 14,357
16 96 360,653 30,802
17 112 370,261 31,545
18 114 492,113 40,933
19 118 1,349,533 103,520
20 132 1,357,201 104,071
21 148 2,010,733 149,689
22 154 4,652,353 325,852
23 180 17,051,707 1,094,421
24 210 20,831,323 1,319,945
25 220 47,326,693 2,850,174
Number 26 to 50
# gn pn n
26 222 122,164,747 6,957,876
27 234 189,695,659 10,539,432
28 248 191,912,783 10,655,462
29 250 387,096,133 20,684,332
30 282 436,273,009 32,162,398
31 288 1,294,268,491 64,955,634
32 292 1,453,168,141 72,507,380
33 320 2,300,942,549 112,228,683
34 336 3,842,610,773 182,837,804
35 354 4,302,407,359 203,615,628
36 382 10,726,904,659 486,570,087
37 384 20,678,048,297 910,774,004
38 394 22,367,084,959 981,765,347
39 456 25,056,082,087 1,094,330,259
40 464 42,652,618,343 1,820,471,368
41 468 127,976,334,671 5,217,031,687
42 474 182,226,896,239 7,322,882,472
43 486 241,160,624,143 9,583,057,667
44 490 297,501,075,799 11,723,859,927
45 500 303,371,455,241 11,945,986,786
46 514 304,599,508,537 11,992,433,550
47 516 416,608,695,821 16,202,238,656
48 532 461,690,510,011 17,883,926,781
49 534 614,487,453,523 23,541,455,083
50 540 738,832,927,927 28,106,444,830
Number 51 to 75
# gn pn n
51 582 1,346,294,310,749 50,070,452,577
52 588 1,408,695,493,609 52,302,956,123
53 602 1,968,188,556,461 72,178,455,400
54 652 2,614,941,710,599 94,906,079,600
55 674 7,177,162,611,713 251,265,078,335
56 716 13,829,048,559,701 473,258,870,471
57 766 19,581,334,192,423 662,221,289,043
58 778 42,842,283,925,351 1,411,461,642,343
59 804 90,874,329,411,493 2,921,439,731,020
60 806 171,231,342,420,521 5,394,763,455,325
61 906 218,209,405,436,543 6,822,667,965,940
62 916 1,189,459,969,825,483 35,315,870,460,455
63 924 1,686,994,940,955,803 49,573,167,413,483
64 1,132 1,693,182,318,746,371 49,749,629,143,526
65 1,184 43,841,547,845,541,059 1,175,662,926,421,598
66 1,198 55,350,776,431,903,243 1,475,067,052,906,945
67 1,220 80,873,624,627,234,849 2,133,658,100,875,638
68 1,224 203,986,478,517,455,989 5,253,374,014,230,870
69 1,248 218,034,721,194,214,273 5,605,544,222,945,291
70 1,272 305,405,826,521,087,869 7,784,313,111,002,702
71 1,328 352,521,223,451,364,323 8,952,449,214,971,382
72 1,356 401,429,925,999,153,707 10,160,960,128,667,332
73 1,370 418,032,645,936,712,127 10,570,355,884,548,334
74 1,442 804,212,830,686,677,669 20,004,097,201,301,079
75 1,476 1,425,172,824,437,699,411 34,952,141,021,660,495

Further results[edit]

Upper bounds[edit]

Bertrand's postulate, proved in 1852, states that there is always a prime number between k and 2k, so in particular pn+1 < 2pn, which means gn < pn.

The prime number theorem, proved in 1896, says that the "average length" of the gap between a prime p and the next prime is ln(p). The actual length of the gap might be much more or less than this. However, from the prime number theorem one can also deduce an upper bound on the length of prime gaps: for every ε > 0, there is a number N such that gn < εpn for all n > N.

One can deduce that the gaps get arbitrarily smaller in proportion to the primes: the quotient

Hoheisel (1930) was the first to show[10] that there exists a constant θ < 1 such that

hence showing that

for sufficiently large n.

Hoheisel obtained the possible value 32999/33000 for θ. This was improved to 249/250 by Heilbronn,[11] and to θ = 3/4 + ε, for any ε > 0, by Chudakov.[12]

A major improvement is due to Ingham,[13] who showed that for some positive constant c, if

then for any

Here, O refers to the big O notation, ζ denotes the Riemann zeta function and π the prime-counting function. Knowing that any c > 1/6 is admissible, one obtains that θ may be any number greater than 5/8.

An immediate consequence of Ingham's result is that there is always a prime number between n3 and (n + 1)3, if n is sufficiently large.[14] The Lindelöf hypothesis would imply that Ingham's formula holds for c any positive number: but even this would not be enough to imply that there is a prime number between n2 and (n + 1)2 for n sufficiently large (see Legendre's conjecture). To verify this, a stronger result such as Cramér's conjecture would be needed.

Huxley in 1972 showed that one may choose θ = 7/12 = 0.58(3).[15]

A result, due to Baker, Harman and Pintz in 2001, shows that θ may be taken to be 0.525.[16]

In 2005, Daniel Goldston, János Pintz and Cem Yıldırım proved that

and 2 years later improved this[17] to

In 2013, Yitang Zhang proved that

meaning that there are infinitely many gaps that do not exceed 70 million.[18] A Polymath Project collaborative effort to optimize Zhang’s bound managed to lower the bound to 4680 on July 20, 2013.[19] In November 2013, James Maynard introduced a new refinement of the GPY sieve, allowing him to reduce the bound to 600 and show that for any m there exists a bounded interval containing m prime numbers.[20] Using Maynard's ideas, the Polymath project improved the bound to 246;[19][21] assuming the Elliott–Halberstam conjecture and its generalized form, N has been reduced to 12 and 6, respectively.[19]

Lower bounds[edit]

In 1938, Robert Rankin proved the existence of a constant c > 0 such that the inequality

holds for infinitely many values n, improving results by Erik Westzynthius and Paul Erdős. He later showed that one can take any constant c < eγ, where γ is the Euler–Mascheroni constant. The value of the constant c was improved in 1997 to any value less than 2eγ.[22]

Paul Erdős offered a $10,000 prize for a proof or disproof that the constant c in the above inequality may be taken arbitrarily large.[23] This was proved to be correct in 2014 by Ford–Green–Konyagin–Tao and, independently, James Maynard.[24][25]

The result was further improved to

for infinitely many values of n by Ford–Green–Konyagin–Maynard–Tao.[26]

Lower bounds for chains of primes have also been determined.[27]

Conjectures about gaps between primes[edit]

Prime gap function

Even better results are possible under the Riemann hypothesis. Harald Cramér proved[28] that the Riemann hypothesis implies the gap gn satisfies

using the big O notation. Later, he conjectured that the gaps are even smaller. Roughly speaking, Cramér's conjecture states that

Firoozbakht's conjecture states that (where is the nth prime) is a strictly decreasing function of n, i.e.,

If this conjecture is true, then the function satisfies [29] It implies a strong form of Cramér's conjecture but is inconsistent with the heuristics of Granville and Pintz[30][31][32] which suggest that infinitely often for any where denotes the Euler–Mascheroni constant.

Meanwhile, Oppermann's conjecture is weaker than Cramér's conjecture. The expected gap size with Oppermann's conjecture is on the order of

As a result, there is (under Oppermann's conjecture) m>0 (probably m=30) for which every natural n>m satisfies

Andrica's conjecture, which is a weaker conjecture than Oppermann's, states that[33]

This is a slight strengthening of Legendre's conjecture that between successive square numbers there is always a prime.

Polignac's conjecture states that every positive even number k occurs as a prime gap infinitely often. The case k = 2 is the twin prime conjecture. The conjecture has not yet been proven or disproven for any specific value of k, but Zhang Yitang result proves that it is true for at least one (currently unknown) value of k which is smaller than 70,000,000.

As an arithmetic function[edit]

The gap gn between the nth and (n + 1)st prime numbers is an example of an arithmetic function. In this context it is usually denoted dn and called the prime difference function.[33] The function is neither multiplicative nor additive.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hidden structure in the randomness of the prime number sequence?", S. Ares & M. Castro, 2005
  2. ^ http://trnicely.net/index.html#TPG
  3. ^ Andersen, Jens Kruse. "The Top-20 Prime Gaps". Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  4. ^ A proven prime gap of 1113106
  5. ^ Maximal Prime Gaps
  6. ^ Westzynthius, E. (1931), "Über die Verteilung der Zahlen die zu den n ersten Primzahlen teilerfremd sind", Commentationes Physico-Mathematicae Helsingsfors (in German), 5: 1–37, JFM 57.0186.02, Zbl 0003.24601 .
  7. ^ a b c NEW PRIME GAP OF MAXIMUM KNOWN MERIT
  8. ^ Dynamic prime gap statistics
  9. ^ TABLES OF PRIME GAPS
  10. ^ Hoheisel, G. (1930). "Primzahlprobleme in der Analysis". Sitzunsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. 33: 3–11. JFM 56.0172.02. 
  11. ^ Heilbronn, H. A. (1933). "Über den Primzahlsatz von Herrn Hoheisel". Mathematische Zeitschrift. 36 (1): 394–423. doi:10.1007/BF01188631. 
  12. ^ Tchudakoff, N. G. (1936). "On the difference between two neighboring prime numbers". Math. Sb. 1: 799–814. 
  13. ^ Ingham, A. E. (1937). "On the difference between consecutive primes". Quarterly Journal of Mathematics. Oxford Series. 8 (1): 255–266. Bibcode:1937QJMat...8..255I. doi:10.1093/qmath/os-8.1.255. 
  14. ^ Cheng, Yuan-You Fu-Rui (2010). "Explicit estimate on primes between consecutive cubes". Rocky Mt. J. Math. 40: 117–153. Zbl 1201.11111. doi:10.1216/rmj-2010-40-1-117. 
  15. ^ Huxley, M. N. (1972). "On the Difference between Consecutive Primes". Inventiones Mathematicae. 15 (2): 164–170. Bibcode:1971InMat..15..164H. doi:10.1007/BF01418933. 
  16. ^ Baker, R. C.; Harman, G.; Pintz, J. (2001). "The difference between consecutive primes, II". Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. 83 (3): 532–562. doi:10.1112/plms/83.3.532. 
  17. ^ Goldston, D. A.; Pintz, J.; Yildirim, C. Y. (2007). "Primes in Tuples II". arXiv:0710.2728Freely accessible [math.NT]. 
  18. ^ Zhang, Yitang (2014). "Bounded gaps between primes". Annals of Mathematics. 179 (3): 1121–1174. MR 3171761. doi:10.4007/annals.2014.179.3.7. 
  19. ^ a b c "Bounded gaps between primes". Polymath. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  20. ^ Maynard, James (2015). "Small gaps between primes". Annals of Mathematics. 181 (1): 383–413. MR 3272929. doi:10.4007/annals.2015.181.1.7. 
  21. ^ D.H.J. Polymath (2014). "Variants of the Selberg sieve, and bounded intervals containing many primes". Research in the Mathematical Sciences. 1 (12). MR 3373710. arXiv:1407.4897Freely accessible. doi:10.1186/s40687-014-0012-7. 
  22. ^ Pintz, J. (1997). "Very large gaps between consecutive primes". J. Number Theory. 63 (2): 286–301. doi:10.1006/jnth.1997.2081. 
  23. ^ Erdős, Some of my favourite unsolved problems
  24. ^ Ford, Kevin; Green, Ben; Konyagin, Sergei; Tao, Terence (2016). "Large gaps between consecutive prime numbers". Ann. Of Math. 183 (3): 935–974. MR 3488740. arXiv:1408.4505Freely accessible. doi:10.4007/annals.2016.183.3.4. 
  25. ^ Maynard, James (2016). "Large gaps between primes". Ann. Of Math. 183 (3): 915–933. MR 3488739. arXiv:1408.5110Freely accessible. doi:10.4007/annals.2016.183.3.3. 
  26. ^ Ford, Kevin; Green, Ben; Konyagin, Sergei; Maynard, James; Tao, Terence (2015). "Long gaps between primes". arXiv:1412.5029Freely accessible [math.NT]. 
  27. ^ Ford, Kevin; Maynard, James; Tao, Terence (2015-10-13). "Chains of large gaps between primes". arXiv:1511.04468Freely accessible [math.NT]. 
  28. ^ Cramér, Harald (1936). "On the order of magnitude of the difference between consecutive prime numbers" (PDF). Acta Arithmetica. 2: 23–46. 
  29. ^ Sinha, Nilotpal Kanti (2010). "On a new property of primes that leads to a generalization of Cramer's conjecture". arXiv:1010.1399Freely accessible [math.NT]. .
  30. ^ Granville, A. (1995). "Harald Cramér and the distribution of prime numbers" (PDF). Scandinavian Actuarial Journal. 1: 12–28. .
  31. ^ Granville, Andrew (1995). "Unexpected irregularities in the distribution of prime numbers" (PDF). Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians. 1: 388–399. .
  32. ^ Pintz, János (2007). "Cramér vs. Cramér: On Cramér's probabilistic model for primes". Funct. Approx. Comment. Math. 37 (2): 232–471. 
  33. ^ a b Guy (2004) §A8

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]