Tuesday, March 20, 2007

LL, Here's One for You

I just love weird math. This is one I've never even heard of before. And both geometry and differential calc were among my faves.

Never did learn string theory, either.

Well, that's what I get for opting out to Business Math instead of REAL math once I finally went to college. Ah, another misspent youth!...

Unlike math whiz LL's, of course.

Team Cracks Decades-Old Math Puzzle

By Associated Press


3 hours ago

PALO ALTO, Calif. - An international team of mathematicians has cracked a 120-year-old puzzle that researchers say is so complicated that its handwritten solution would cover the island of Manhattan.

The 18-member group of mathematicians and computer scientists was convened by the American Institute of Mathematics in Palo Alto to map a theoretical object known as the "Lie group E8."

Lie (pronounced Lee) groups were invented by 19th-century Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie in his study of symmetrical objects, especially spheres, and differential calculus.

The E8 group, which dates to 1887, is the most complicated Lie group, with 248 dimensions, and was long considered impossible to solve.

"To say what precisely it is is something even many mathematicians can't understand," said Jeffrey Adams, the project's leader and a math professor at the University of Maryland.

The problem's proof, announced Monday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took the researchers four years to find. It involves about 60 times as much data as the Human Genome Project.

When stored in highly compressed form on a computer hard drive, the solution takes up as much space as 45 days of continuous music in MP3 format.

"It's like a Mount Everest of mathematical structures they've climbed now," said Brian Conrey, director of the institute.

The calculation does not have any obvious practical applications but could help advance theoretical physics and geometry, researchers said.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


LL said...

I'm very curious as to how they DID store the damn proof!

k said...

And in that comment, we see your perfect union of Math Whiz and Computer Whiz. ;-)

pepektheassassin said...

Hmmm. Fascinating! (But I don't really understand....)

Snog Dot said...

I sure hope they didn't get paid to do this. Probably stored it on MIT's 'storage area network.' LL, if you ask nice maybe they'll send you a copy.

LL said...

Oh hell no! I like applied mathematics, not theoretical. Ok, yes, the calculus theory was ok, but the proofs were a bitch and to even THINK of a proof that needed all those minds working for that long... *shudder*

k said...

miss assassin, you're in good company. I have NO IDEA what they're talking about! But it sure sounds fun, huh?

snog dot, this sounds like a labor of love, doesn't it? That's an intriguing question - especially in light of the ending, where they said it really didn't have much actual usefulness to it. Money? Bragging rights among one's esoteric peers? Weird secretive government grants? Promotion to Codebreaker in the next world war?

Or...like Everest, just because it's there?

LL, one day I'm gonna give you a question for QF about how much theoretical finance you took. Because one thing I always loved about it was the odd juxtaposition of the applied and the theoretical.

And the constant need to remind Lesser Brains of one of k's favorite admonitions: