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Archive of posts filed under the Numbers category.

02/18/2018 — Happy Permutation Day!

Today we celebrate a Permutation Day! I call days like today permutation days because the digits of the day and the month can be rearranged to form the year.

We can also consider today a Transposition Day, as we need only a single transposition (an exchange of two numbers) to turn the year into the day and date.

Celebrate Permutation Day by mixing things up! Try doing things in a different order today. Just remember, for some operations, order definitely matters!

01/28/2018 — Happy Permutation Day!

Today we celebrate a Permutation Day! I call days like today permutation days because the digits of the day and the month can be rearranged to form the year.

Celebrate Permutation Day by mixing things up! Try doing things in a different order today. Just remember, for some operations, order definitely matters!

The 2017-18 Conjecture

Like many mathematicians and teachers, I often enjoy thinking about the mathematical properties of dates, not because dates themselves are inherently meaningful numerically, but just because I enjoy thinking about numbers.

A new year means a new number to think about. And one interesting fact about our new year, 2018, is that it is semiprime.

A number is semiprime if it is the product of exactly two prime factors: for example, 15 = 3 * 5 is semiprime, as is 49 = 7 * 7, but neither 13 nor 30 are. Semiprime numbers are also referred to as biprime2-almost prime, or pqnumbers.

Semiprimes are very interesting in and of themselves, particularly in cryptography, but what caught my attention is that the previous year, 2017, is a prime number. That means we have a semiprime number, 2018, adjacent to a prime number, 2017. How unusual is this?

I played around a bit and ended up writing some simple programs to find and analyze semiprimes. Among the first 500,000 integers, there are roughly 108,000 semiprimes and 41,500 primes. Of the 108,000 semiprimes, only about 2,500 (or 2.3%) are adjacent to a prime number. This seems low to me: there are 83,000 prime-adjacent spots among the first 500,000 integers, representing 18% of the spots semiprimes could occupy. But only about 2.3% of the 108,000 semiprimes end up in those spots. That seems unusual. * [See Update]

In thinking about what happens further out along the number line, I couldn’t help but wonder if there are infinitely many prime-semiprime pairs like 2017 and 2018. I certainly don’t know the answer, but I thought I would start the new year boldly, with a conjecture:

The 2017-18 Conjecture

There are infinitely many pairs of consecutive integers one of which is prime and one of which is semiprime.

I think this problem’s resemblance to the Twin Prime Conjecture led me to both imagine this conjecture and also suspect it’s true. As with virtually everything in mathematics, I’m sure someone has thought of this before, and I would love a reference if anyone can provide it.

Thinking ahead, I was excited to notice that next year will also be a semiprime!

But it appears that the Twin Semiprime Conjecture is already an existing open question, which means I have less than a year to come up with a new conjecture for 2019.

Happy New Year! 2018 has already inspired to me to do some number theory, tackle some computing challenges, and think about some new ideas for the classroom. It’s a good mathematical start to the new year, and here’s hoping 2018 only gets better.

UPDATE, 1/18/2018

In a comment, Brent pointed out that I undercounted the number of semiprimes adjacent to a prime. A recalculation is consistent with Brent’s numbers: among the 108,000 semiprimes up to 500,000, around 4,900 of them are adjacent to prime number. Thanks, Brent!

Related Posts

 

12/07/2017 — Happy Permutation Day!

Today we celebrate a Permutation Day! I call days like today permutation days because the digits of the day and the month can be rearranged to form the year.

Celebrate Permutation Day by mixing things up! Try doing things in a different order today. Just remember, for some operations, order definitely matters!

07/21/2017 — Happy Derangement Day!

Today we celebrate a Derangement Day!  Usually I call a day like today a Permutation Day because the digits of the day and month can be rearranged to form the year, but there’s something extra special about today’s date:

The numbers of the month and day are a derangement of the year:  that is, they are a permutation of the digits of the year in which no digit remains in its original place!

Derangements pop up in some interesting places, and are connected to many rich mathematical ideas.   The question “How many derangements of n objects are there?” is a fun and classic application of the principle of inclusion-exclusion.  Derangements also figure in to some calculations of e and rook polynomials.

So enjoy Derangement Day!  Today, it’s ok to be totally out of order.