Translated article: Oliver Sacks’s Twins and Prime Numbers

As the first of my articles on to be translated into English, I have chosen “De priemgetal tweeling van Oliver Sacks“. The Dutch version was originally published on December 22nd 2011.

Oliver Sacks (photo Mars Hill Church - Flickr)

Oliver Sacks writes in his book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat” (1985) about the autistic twins John and Michael. According to Sacks they were able to ‘see’ huge prime numbers without doing complex calculations. In the story Sacks uses a book with prime numbers and writes that it contained all prime numbers up to a length of ten figures. In 2006 Makato Yamaguchi questioned this part of the report by Sacks and stated that such a book can not exist. If the book would contain all the primes consisting of ten figures or less, it would have to list more than 455 million numbers!
I’ve tried to figure out what might have been the actual method the twins used for selecting their numbers. In my opinion Sacks’s hypothesis is wrong, but he might not have been that far off in reporting what actual happened.

Read the full article:

Oliver Sacks’s Twins and Prime Numbers

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