Prime Numbers: The Key to Arithmetic
In previous posts, we talked about prime numbers. We saw what they are, how to identify them, and how they can be used to find the greatest common divisor or the least common multiple…
- How to Find Them with the Sieve of Eratosthenes
- A Trick to Help You Identify Them
- Do You Know What They Are?
In this post we are going to talk about prime numbers as the key to arithmetic and provide an example that demonstrates their importance; not just in arithmetic calculation, but in nature as well.
What it means for prime numbers to be the key to math?
They are seen this way because all numbers are formed by the unique product of a series of these numbers.
It is believed that prime numbers have been studied for over 20,000 years, when one of our ancestors recorded a quatern of prime numbers (11, 13, 17, and 19) on The Ishango Bone. In case this would seem like a coincidence, it was confirmed that the ancient Egyptians were working with prime numbers 4,000 years ago. Despite all of this time having passed, there are still many mysteries surrounding prime numbers that we have not been able to solve:
- Are prime numbers finite?
- How can we calculate if a number is prime or not?
These are the two most important enigmas in math, for which extremely large quantities of money are offered up.
Curiosities About Prime Numbers in Nature
Prime numbers are not a mystery for everyone. Nature knows them very well and some species have been able to discover them throughout their evolution and put them to use for their survival.
I am referring specifically to cicadas, which established their reproduction cycle at around 13 or 17 years–not 12, not 14, not 15, nor 16, nor 18–exactly every 13 or 17 years. Their infrequent emergence allows them to avoid predators that also have periodic reproductive cycles; let’s imagine a predator with a 4-year cycle.
If the cicada’s reproductive cycle were every 12 or 14 years, cicadas’ emergence would coincide with that of its predator very frequently- much more often than if it was every 13 or 17 years (which in 100 years, would coincide exactly 2 times). In the first case, a cicada and its predator would coincide during 11 cycles, thus compromising the development of the cicada species.
What do you think about these curious facts?
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