03/15/2010 | Igor I. Mazin
once popular joke asked how a physicist would interpret experimental data on odd numbers. As the first experiments reveal that 1, 3, 5 and 7 are all prime numbers, the physicist becomes convinced that all odd numbers are prime and that a correct theory of 'primeness' should be able to explain this experimental fact. Further studies, however, show that 9 is not a prime number. The community initially disregards this as an experimental error; however, after more experiments, the researchers are forced to admit that 9 is indeed not prime, making it a unique case. This view is reinforced when further experiments show that the next odd numbers in the series, 11 and 13, are both prime. Only after it is found that, in violation of 'conventional wisdom', 15 is not a prime number, does the idea that there are infinitely many odd numbers, but not prime numbers, take root in researchers' minds.
. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org