His $1M Math Solution Isn't Going Over Well - Page 2

Michael Atiyah must convince colleagues that he cracked a 159-year-old problem
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2018 3:33 PM CDT
Updated Sep 29, 2018 1:00 PM CDT

  • Hang on: “What (Atiyah) showed in the presentation is very unlikely to be anything like a proof of the Riemann hypothesis as we know it,” Jørgen Veisdal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology tells Science. “It is simply too vague and unspecific.” But Veisdal said he has to study the written proof in order to be sure.
  • Similar note: New Scientist also talks to mathematicians and describes the reaction as one of "cautious skepticism." Few would comment publicly, perhaps out of fear of offending Atiyah.
  • Spotty record: Atiyah won the Fields Medal in 1966 and another top math award, the Abel Prize, in 2004, but Science notes that he's had a spottier record in retirement. He announced in 2016 that he'd solved another famous math problem, but his proof eventually fizzled. The same thing happened the following year with another famous problem.
  • 2-year rule: Atiyah is aware of the skepticism and fine with it. "People will complain and grumble, but that’s because they’re resistant to the idea that an old man might have come up with an entirely new method," he says. Nor was he taking full credit: He says his proof his based on the work of mathematicians John von Neumann and Friedrich Hirzebruch. To collect the $1 million prize, Atiyah needs to have his proof published in a reputable math journal and have it be widely accepted two years after publication.
  • Simpler answer: Perhaps it's 42?
(Read more mathematics stories.)

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