FAQ: Are all primes (past 2 and 3) of the forms 6n+1 and 6n-1?
By Chris Caldwell
Perhaps the most rediscovered result about primes numbers is the following:
I found that every prime number over 3 lies next to a number divisible by six. Using Matlab with the help of a friend, we wrote a program to test this theory and found that at least within the first 1,000,000 primes this holds true.
Checking a million primes is certainly energetic, but it is not necessary (and just looking at examples can be misleading in mathematics). Here is how to prove your observation: take any integer n greater than 3, and divide it by 6. That is, write
n = 6q + r
where q is a non-negative integer and the remainder r is one of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.
- If the remainder is 0, 2 or 4, then the number n is divisible by 2, and can not be prime.
- If the remainder is 3, then the number n is divisible by 3, and can not be prime.
So if n is prime, then the remainder r is either
- 1 (and n = 6q + 1 is one more than a multiple of six), or
- 5 (and n = 6q + 5 = 6(q+1) - 1 is one less than a multiple of six).
Remember that being one more or less than a multiple of six does not
make a number prime. We have only shown that all primes other than
2 and 3 (which divide 6) have this form.
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