Mathematician claims a prime-number problem breakthrough

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Yitang Zhang at the blackboard during the documentary film ‘Counting from Infinity’ in 2015.

Number theorist Yitang Zhang tackled a problem that could tame the randomness of prime numbers.Credit: George Csicsery/Zala Films

Number theorist Yitang Zhang, who went from obscurity to luminary status in 2013 for cracking a century-old question about prime numbers, now claims to have solved another. The problem is similar to — but distinct from — the Riemann hypothesis, which is considered one of the most important problems in mathematics. Zhang posted his proposed solution — a 111-page preprint — on arXiv, and it has not yet been validated by his peers. If it checks out, it will help to tame the randomness of prime numbers, but Zhang and other scientists have previously proposed solutions to this problem that turned out to be faulty. It will take a while for researchers to comb through Zhang’s argument to see whether it is correct.

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: arXiv preprint (not peer reviewed)

Gaps in fishing-vessel tracking data could be the hallmark of illegal fishing activity. Between 2017 and 2019, fishing boats concealed their location by switching off their automatic location system (AIS) — hiding up to 6% of their activity, according to an analysis of AIS data. Vessels from Spain, the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and the United States obscured their location the most, and AIS was often disabled close to waters known for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. “If they were allowed to go in that zone, why would they disable their AIS?” asks spatial ecologist Heather Welch.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Science Advances paper

Engineers in China have just finished building the world’s largest telescope array for studying the Sun. The Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT) is among a suite of instruments that the country has built in the past three years to help us understand our nearest star. The DSRT consists of more than 300 dish-shaped antennas forming a circle more than 3 kilometres in circumference. The 100 million yuan (US$14 million) observatory will help researchers to study solar eruptions and how they affect conditions around Earth. The telescope’s first test operations will start in June.

Nature | 3 min read

COP27 climate conference

On Friday, US President Joe Biden spoke at the United Nations COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, laying out the United States’ commitment to fighting climate change. He outlined measures taken during his administration, including the passing of a landmark climate bill that will provide US$368 billion to support clean energy and decarbonize the economy. President Biden urged action from global leaders, saying “The United States is acting. Everyone has to act. That’s the duty and responsibility of global leadership.” But his message was not entirely well-received: protestors yelled during the event, and some scientists have spoken of their disappointment in the US approach following Biden’s speech. “Joe Biden comes to COP27 and makes new promises, but his old promises have not even been fulfilled,” Mohamed Adow, founder of Power Shift Africa, told the BBC.

BBC | 4 min read

Reference: The White House (full speech transcript)

In the second week of the COP27 climate summit, world leaders will continue formal negotiations, and more general discussions will take place over a series of themed days. Today, the topic was water scarcity, which is of particular interest to millions in Africa: many east African nations are continuing to experience a devastating drought. Gender was another of today’s discussion themes. The rest of the week will see talks on civil society, energy, biodiversity and, finally, solutions — in which the private sector will offer ideas and new tech to help address the climate crisis.

The Guardian | 7 min read


This week, Flora will be writing the Nature Briefing from COP27 in Egypt as the conference enters its final week. We would like to hear your views about climate change, the summit and how science plays into the political process. Your comments might be featured in future stories or help us to shape our coverage. Please e-mail us at [email protected]

Features & opinion

Graduate students who study abroad face a range of challenges, including problems with visas and discrimination, a Nature survey finds. More than 3,250 graduate students responded to Nature’s 2022 global survey, 29% of whom were international students studying outside their home countries. Respondents outlined a variety of obstacles, such as bureaucratic processes to arrange visas, and racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. In the survey, 26% of international students say that they have experienced discrimination or harassment during their studies, compared with 17% of domestic students. Despite these setbacks, the majority of students were satisfied with their programmes. As Indian PhD student Keerthiraju Ravichandran says of his studies in Poland: “We have resources [in Europe] that you can’t even dream of in India.”

Nature | 6 min read

Where I work

Antonella Leone swims next to a jellyfish

Antonella Leone is a biochemistry researcher at the National Research Council – Institute of Science of Food Production in Lecce, Italy.Credit: Elisabetta Zavoli for Nature

Biochemistry researcher Antonella Leone works on exploring the potential of the growing jellyfish population in the Mediterranean sea, including evaluating them as a potential food. Leone works at the National Research Council in Italy, on a European Union-funded project called GoJelly. As part of her research, she makes trips to collect jellyfish. “We usually gather them from the boat by net, but sometimes we dive into the sea to catch them directly, using hand nets. The jellyfish in this picture, Rhizostoma pulmo, was not so happy to swim with us, but this species’ sting is mild.” (Nature | 2 min read)

Quote of the day

Hany Mostafa, at the Environment and Climate Changes Research Institute in Cairo, was among a group of Egyptian climate scientists who spoke to Nature about their hopes for COP27. (Nature | 5 min read)

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