This view point is note entirely correct. Whilst there is a lot of logic in mathematics and it is certainly helpful to be able to think logically, it is not all there is to it. Mathematics is – by necessity – a very creative science. To stretch mathematics to new areas, you need to be creative in your approach. To attempt a proof of something that no one else has done, you need to be creative.

This being said, there are rules and logical steps that you follow – just like everywhere else. Music is governed by certain laws of physics. Art is governed by visual laws. Poetry and literature are governed by laws of the medium it is written in – even poets like e.e. cummings ascribe to certain laws, albeit they enjoy breaking most of them. Mathematics is the same.

A few people I have told this to have been sceptical of my views. They remember their mathematics at school as being very strict and formal. Very few were privileged enough to be shown the joys of creating new mathematics, or taught to think rather then remember. To people who view mathematics as being a logic and rule based science with no deviations, I suggest you look up some recreational math authors (or contact me for some who I’ve read).

You can’t start counting and eventually get there – infinity is easily viewed as the biggest number you can think of, plus 1. You can’t ever reach it. Your only way of examining it is to simplify it, or to creep up on it and surprise it.

assume you want to show that there is a set of consecutive composite numbers of any size.

(so the number n is not prime, nor is n+1, n+2,…for the next s numbers.)

here’s the trick: if you take a number n, and you times it by n-1,n-2…2 then the number you get is called the factorial of n, and is shown as n!. so n!=n*(n-1)*(n-2)*…*2

now this is obviously composite. We can also show that n!+2 is composite as n! has a factor of 2, as does 2, so it is composite. We can do this for any factor of n! – so for all numbers from 2 to n-1, we can add it n! and get a composite number. Assume we choose k. then n!=n*(n-1)*…*k*…*2, and n!+k=k( (n*(n-1)*…*(k+1)*(k-1)*…*2+1), so k is a factor.

this means that all numbers from n!+2 up to n!+n are composite. So to find a set of size s, take the s numbers after (s+1)!+1 – they’ll all be composite. (quick question, are there any sets of size 2? Why?)

I am not saying here that computers will not be able to prove number theory problems. There is a role for computers in proofs. Sometimes we can reduce a problem down to a set of numbers – so if it satisfies these numbers, then it satisfies all numbers. This is the way the four colour theorem in Graph theory was solved. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Collatz conjecture is similar. but I believe that no computer will ever be able to take a conjecture and prove it from scratch. I may be mistaken, I do think I recall a book that said that Turing proved that computers won’t be able to find solutions to all problems, which leaves the possibility that some problems will be proved by computers, but my current knowledge does not know of any that have been done by a computer.

there is a separate blog post about this, but to reiterate: take any number n. if it’s odd, multiply it by 3, and add 1. If it’s even, divide it by 2. Repeat for the new number. Keep doing that, and eventually you’ll reach 1 – or at least, that’s the conjecture (which means it hasn’t been proved).

Assume that, a long time ago, there was a village in the middle of nowhere with a very detailed language. Now a huge fight erupted, and because of the fight, many people in the village decided to leave and start new villages. These people all formed their own groups which then left the village and headed off in their own direction, never to travel back to the original village.

now over the following thousands of years, this happened many times. Occasionally, splinter groups from one village would join up with another splinter group, forming a new village, but people never travelled to an existing village.