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[April 03, 2009]

A way with numbers...

AMMAN, Apr 02, 2009 (Jordan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A prime number theory unaddressed by the world's top mathematicians may take two brothers from a remote village in the south of Jordan to one of Britain's prestigious universities.

Ragheb and Thamer Masarweh from the village of Jadaa in Karak, who worked for 10 years to prove a theory on prime numbers, are currently honing their English language skills at the British Council in Amman before heading to the UK to do their master's in statistics and mathematics.

Both Ragheb, who used to work as an accountant at a government institution, and Thamer, who was a schoolteacher, resigned from their jobs upon a request from the Royal Court in order to pursue their higher education.

The two brothers said they received a phone call from the Royal Court in February last year, informing them that His Majesty King Abdullah had read about them in the local press. The Royal Court provided them with laptops and the opportunity to study English at the British Council.

The Masarweh brothers' theory sets out a simple method that can sort and determine prime numbers through computer applications.

According to them, German mathematician Johann Dirichlet's prime number theorem states that there are infinitely many odd numbers, but does not elaborate when numbers are prime or composite.

A prime number is a natural number that has two distinct natural number divisors -- one and itself -- without any remainder. The only even prime number is 2, as all other even numbers can be divided by 2.

Numbers have long fascinated the two brothers.

When 24-year-old Thamer was 14-years-old, his favourite subject was mathematics and he used to excel in the subject and score the highest marks in class.

He started to work on this theory with the assistance of Ragheb, one year his senior, who shared his passion to explore areas of mathematics not previously tackled.

However, the two brothers said they received little support from their community or at school.

"Our teachers were not supportive and used to tell us not to attempt things greater than our abilities," Thamer noted, adding that "unfortunately, lecturers at university said the same thing, which frustrated us".

"Our family used to encourage us, mostly by praying that we achieve our ambitions, because they had very limited financial resources," they said.

Ragheb and Thamer, who have nine brothers and seven sisters, are children of a military pensioner.

Both studied at Muta University in Karak, with Thamer graduating with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, and Ragheb with a BA in statistics.

"Although I loved maths, I always wanted to study electronic engineering because my hobby was repairing electronic devices such as radios, TVs and mobile phones," Thamer noted.

"I used to repair mobile phones for people in our village and sometimes upgrade them," he added.

Meanwhile Ragheb wanted to study maths at the university, but he did not score the required marks for admission.

"I like the subject because it is based on brainstorming and analysis," he said, noting that he solved a math equation that took 12 hours when he was 15-years-old.

Professor Haroun Rabadi from the University of Jordan, who supervised the Masarweh brothers' initiative, told The Jordan Times that the theory has been tried and proven on computers.

The mathematical theory, which can be used for preparing security codes, will be sent to an international magazine specialising in computer applications, which will compare it with other theories to evaluate its viability, Rabadi added.

"The two brothers are excellent researchers who deserve to be encouraged," he said.

The Masarweh brothers also have other innovative ideas.

They have designed an electromagnetic "anti-shock" system for vehicles that has the potential to reduce traffic accidents in the Kingdom.

Under their proposed design, an electromagnetic system connected to the engine would automatically bring cars to a halt before they come into contact with other vehicles.

Imad Yared from the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) said that while the project is scientifically feasible, it needs practical testing, which may take several months.

KAFD, a nongovernmental development organisation, is working with the young mathematicians to breathe life into their theory and apply it on the country's roads.

Until then, the two brothers are working hard on improving their English and waiting for the day when they can start their postgraduate studies in the UK.

To see more of the Jordan Times or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.jordantimes.com/. Copyright (c) 2009, Jordan Times, Amman Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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