The Prime Number Conspiracy

The Prime Number Conspiracy

The Biggest Ideas in Math from Quanta

Edited by Thomas Lin

Foreword by James Gleick

Quanta Magazine's stories of mathematical explorations show that “inspiration strikes willy-nilly,” revealing surprising solutions and exciting discoveries.





Quanta Magazine's stories of mathematical explorations show that “inspiration strikes willy-nilly,” revealing surprising solutions and exciting discoveries.

If you're a science and data nerd like me, you may be interested in "Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire" and "The Prime Number Conspiracy" from Quanta Magazine and Thomas Lin. - Bill Gates

These stories from Quanta Magazine map the routes of mathematical exploration, showing readers how cutting-edge research is done, while illuminating the productive tension between conjecture and proof, theory and intuition. The stories show that, as James Gleick puts it in the foreword, “inspiration strikes willy-nilly.” One researcher thinks of quantum chaotic systems at a bus stop; another suddenly realizes a path to proving a theorem of number theory while in a friend's backyard; a statistician has a “bathroom sink epiphany” and discovers the key to solving the Gaussian correlation inequality. Readers of The Prime Number Conspiracy, says Quanta editor-in-chief Thomas Lin, are headed on “breathtaking intellectual journeys to the bleeding edge of discovery strapped to the narrative rocket of humanity's never-ending pursuit of knowledge.” Quanta is the only popular publication that offers in-depth coverage of the latest breakthroughs in understanding our mathematical universe. It communicates mathematics by taking it seriously, wrestling with difficult concepts and clearly explaining them in a way that speaks to our innate curiosity about our world and ourselves. Readers of this volume will learn that prime numbers have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them (the “conspiracy” of the title); consider whether math is the universal language of nature (allowing for “a unified theory of randomness”); discover surprising solutions (including a pentagon tiling proof that solves a century-old math problem); ponder the limits of computation; measure infinity; and explore the eternal question “Is mathematics good for you?”

ContributorsAriel Bleicher, Robbert Dijkgraaf, Kevin Hartnett, Erica Klarreich, Thomas Lin, John Pavlus, Siobhan Roberts, Natalie Wolchover

Copublished with Quanta Magazine


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262536356 336 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 26 b&w illus.


Thomas Lin

Thomas Lin is the founding editor-in-chief of Quanta Magazine, an online publication that reports on developments in science and mathematics, with content syndicated in publications such as WiredThe Atlantic, Scientific American and The Washington Post. Lin previously worked for The New York Times, where he edited online features and wrote about science, technology and tennis. He has also written for Quanta, The New YorkerTennis, and other publications.


James Gleick.


  • A solid choice for those who would like to know more about the state-of-the-art in mathematics.

    Library Journal


  • Mathematics has rarely seemed as vibrant and alive—and as thrilling—as it does in these pages. When the best writers explain the best mathematics, it's a wonder to behold. These are stories of drama, passion, longing and inspiration. They're also a lot of fun to read.

    Steven Strogatz

    Cornell University and author of The Joy of x

  • A gourmet tasting menu of recent advances in mathematics, where each dish has depth and flavor while being small enough not to overwhelm. Human stories behind the discoveries make them gripping even when the content might be beyond our grasp and serve as an important reminder that even the most abstract mathematics is a human pursuit.

    Eugenia Cheng

    Mathematician and author of How to Bake Pi, Beyond Infinity, and The Art of Logic

  • This is a remarkable collection of some of the most fascinating problems—and minds— in mathematics, ranging from Spielman's groundbreaking work in networks to a unified theory of randomness. Consistently informative, accessible, and thought-provoking, these essays chronicle the most critical human endeavor: the quest for understanding.

    John Urschel

    Former NFL player and current MIT PhD candidate in mathematics

  • Quanta Magazine has, for several years now, been an unequaled source of high-quality articles from talented writers, clearly explaining what is going on at the frontiers of mathematical research. Gathered together they give a uniquely rich and in-depth picture of modern mathematics and mathematicians.

    Peter Woit

    Mathematical Physicist and Senior Lecturer at Columbia University, and author of Not Even Wrong and Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations

  • The Prime Number Conspiracy tells math stories the right way—as stories about beautiful, crazy new ideas in the world but also about the teams of humans who bring those ideas into being.  It's a rush for anyone who cares about math and those who make it.

    Jordan Ellenberg

    Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin–Madison; author of How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking