We are going to tell a strange yarn revolving around Erdos numbers and an introverted Scandinavian mathematician: Atle Selberg.
When Nazi Germany occupied Norway, he remained isolated from the rest of the scientific community . In those years, he gained a demonstration of the Dirichlet’s Theorem (without the RH) and he approached a demonstration of the theorem of prime numbers of Gauss.
In his solitude Selberg had never published with anyone, nor ever discussed his ideas with other mathematicians. But ones upon a time… he became a friend of Paul Turan, and Atle revealed him some of their results. Turan, for misfortune of Selberg, was a great friend of Erdos, and inevitably the ideas of Atle reached the ears of the hungarian mathematician.
Once, Erdos’ friendship saved the Turan’s lives. Indeed, in 1945, the mathematician was caught by Russian troops in Budapest, recently released, in possession of many sheets containing strange formulas and codes, that seemed Nazi coded instructions! Turan managed to survive only because the good Erdos testified for him.
Came back to us. Erdos, barely aware of Atle’s results, used them to prove a generalized version of Bertrand’s postulate. Selberg was happy: it was the missing card to prove the theorem of prime numbers!
Selberg confided his result to Erdos, who immediately began to spread the notice in the world, pressing Atle for a four hands article. In a short time, thanks to an extensive network of correspondence and conferences, the news of the demonstration came in every faculties of mathematics in the world. Unfortunately, however, someone began to say that the theorem was proved by Erdos. Once, indeed, a mathematician said to Selberg, ignoring who it was: “Have you heard? Erdos and a scandinavian mathematician prooved the theorem of prime numbers! ”
It was the spark that made the vase overflow … Selberg locked himself again in the solitude, hating Erdos for the rest of the life.
Throughout Selberg has collaborated once with another mathematician, signing with him an article. He was Saradavam Chowla, who had Erdos number of 1.
Thus Selberg obtained EN 2.