Yitang Zhang's Santa Barbara Beach Walk

Grand ideas have a way of turning up in unusual settings, far from an office or a chalkboard. Months ago, Quanta Magazine set out to photograph some of the world’s most accomplished scientists and mathematicians, including former Member Yitang Zhang, in their favorite places to think, tinker and create. This series explores the role of cherished spaces—public or private, spare or crowded, inside or out—in clearing a path to inspiration.

In 2013, at 58, Zhang published his proof of a bounded prime gap below 70 million in one of the world’s most prestigious journals, the Annals of Mathematics. The paper’s referees wrote that Zhang, who had been unknown to established mathematicians, had proved “a landmark theorem in the distribution of prime numbers.”

“I hope I can solve a few more important problems just like this,” Zhang said in his 2015 interview. Even as other mathematicians work to drive the bounded prime gap closer to two, Zhang has moved on, returning to his work on the elusive Landau-Siegel zeros conjecture.

Zhang ponders this seemingly intractable question on quiet walks along the beach. After taking part in Quanta’s photo shoot last winter, Zhang said simply: “I love to live and do my research in the Santa Barbara area.”

Read more at Quanta.