Simple Wave-Optical Superpositions as Prime Number Sieves

T. C. Petersen, M. Ceko, I. D. Svalbe, M. J. Morgan, A. I. Bishop, D. M. Paganin

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We encode the sequence of prime numbers into simple superpositions of identical waves, mimicking the archetypal prime number sieve of Eratosthenes. The primes are identified as zeros accompanied by phase singularities in a physically generated wave field for integer valued momenta. Similarly, primes are encoded in the diffraction pattern from a simple single aperture and in the harmonics of a single vibrating resonator. Further, diffraction physics connections to number theory reveal how to encode all Gaussian primes, twin primes, and how to construct wave fields with amplitudes equal to the divisor function at integer spatial frequencies. Remarkably, all of these basic diffraction phenomena reveal that the naturally irregular sequence of primes can arise from trivially ordered wave superpositions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number090201
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2019

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