Earlier this year, Tim Gowers started a project in massively collaborative mathematics – an open approach to solving mathematical problems using blogs and wikis. The first iteration of this “Polymath Project” was very successful (see also Terry Taoâ€™s recent mini-Polymath), and new iterations are now being planned. To help with that process, Terry Tao has set up a Polymath blog, and there is now a very lively discussion going on about possible problems, including the very interesting problem of finding an efficient deterministic algorithm to generate prime numbers above a specified size.

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I like the problem of finding a deterministic algorithm for finding primes because it seems to me to setup a race between algorithms/complexity people and mathematicians (yes there is overlap, this is just a broad brush I’m using.) On the one hand things like Cramer’s conjecture seem much more like traditional mathematics, but derandomization is a CS theorist’s forte. (It’s interesting that my own propensity to bet is solely a function of my distance from the field, i.e. my first thought is to bet on the mathematician’s side, but that’s simply because I understand them even less than I understand CS theorists.)