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The numbers $14$ and $21$ are quite interesting.

The prime factorisation of $14$ is $2\cdot 7$ and the prime factorisation of $14+1$ is $3\cdot 5$. Note that $3$ is the prime after $2$ and $5$ is the prime before $7$.

Similarly, the prime factorisation of $21$ is $7\cdot 3$ and the prime factorisation of $21+1$ is $11\cdot 2$. Again, $11$ is the prime after $7$ and $2$ is the prime before $3$.

In other words, they both satisfy the following definition:

Definition: A positive integer $n$ is called interesting if it has a prime factorisation $n=pq$ with $p\ne q$ such that the prime factorisation of $n+1$ is $p'q'$ where $p'$ is the prime after $p$ and $q'$ the prime before $q$.

Are there other interesting numbers?

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    $\begingroup$ If $p_n$ denotes the $n$-th prime, then we search examples for $p_{n+1}p_{m-1}-p_np_m=1$. I have seen this before... but where? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Since one of $n$ and $n+1$ is even, you either have $p=2$ and $p'=3$ or $q'=2$ and $q=3$, so that either $q={3q'-1\over2}$ (if $pp'=2\cdot3$) or $p'={3p+1\over2}$ (if $q'q=2\cdot3$). The Prime Number Theorem limits the number of possibilities, and it should be fairly easy to find the upper limit. In effect, you want to find when a "$3/2$" version of Bertrand's Postulate kicks in. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @BarryCipra If you see this wikipedia paragraph, they say that the $\frac65$ version of Bertrand's postulate kicks in at $25$. The $\frac32$ version can't kick in later, so there aren't a whole lot of primes that needs to be checked. $\endgroup$
    – Arthur
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Well, Parcly Taxel has relieved us both of the burden. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think we should drop the requirement $p\ne q$ and accept $n=9$ as an interesting number as well. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 23:30

1 Answer 1

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Note that exactly one of $n$ and $n+1$ is even. It follows that for $n$ to be interesting, either $n=3p$ and $n+1=2N(p)$ or $n=2p$ and $n+1=3P(p)$, where $P(p)$ and $N(p)$ are the previous and next primes to $p$ respectively. Rearranging we get that $p$ must satisfy one of the following two equations: $$\frac{3p+1}2=N(p)\tag1$$ $$\frac{2p+1}3=P(p)\tag2$$ However, by a 1952 result of Jitsuro Nagura, for $p\ge25$ there is always a prime between $p$ and $\frac65p$. In particular, if $p\ge31$ is a prime: $$\frac56p<P(p)<p<N(p)<\frac65p$$ But when $p\ge31$ the following inequalities are also true: $$\frac{2p+1}3<\frac56p\qquad\frac65p<\frac{3p+1}2$$ Therefore, if $p$ is to satisfy $(1)$ or $(2)$ above, it must be less than 31. This leaves a handful of cases to check for $p$, and we find that the only interesting numbers are 14 and 21 as conjectured.


The Nagura paper is a reference in the Wikipedia article on Bertrand's postulate. While those in the comments had saw it, sketching out the approach I use here, I already knew what to do; I did not read those comments in detail until after posting my answer.

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    $\begingroup$ For the record, it is worth pointing out that this method was previously sketched in the comments to the question by Barry Cipra and Arthur, including a link to Wikipedia (which cites Nagura's paper). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ Even as a non-mathematician, that paper was great to read, interesting approach (though probably interesting mainly because I'm not well versed in the field). $\endgroup$
    – Etheryte
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 23:54

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