Did a mathematician really solve a million-dollar math problem?

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 25, 2018

But doubts have been raised over the legitimacy of Professor Atiyah's solution.

One of the world's most renowned mathematicians showed how he solved the 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis at a lecture on Monday - and he will be awarded US$1 million if his solution is confirmed.

Professor Michael Atiyah claims he has proof of the Riemann hypothesis - a way to map prime numbers, which can only be divided by one and themselves.

He said: "Nobody believes any proof of the Riemann hypothesis, let alone a proof by someone who's 90".

'Nobody believes any proof of the Riemann hypothesis because it is so hard. Nobody has proved it, so why should anybody prove it now?

"It's so hard nobody's proved it, so why should anyone prove it now, unless of course you have a totally new idea", said Atiyah.

The announcement is stirring up plenty of discussions online and among maths experts.

10,000,000,000,000 prime numbers have been checked and are consistent with the equation, but there is no proof that all primes follow the pattern.

Bernhard Riemann made a massive breakthrough in prime number theory with an 8-page paper published in 1859.

Much of today's digital security relies on the random distribution of prime numbers - meaning a solution to the Riemann hypothesis could raise challenges for cybersecurity. This set the Riemann hypothesis up to be one of the six unsolved Clay Millennium Problems.

Atiyah's proof of the Riemann hypothesis seemed simplistic when juxtaposed with previous solutions.

Atiyah said based on earlier work from mathematicians Friedrich Hirzebruch and John von Neumann, Riemann's original hypothesis on how prime numbers are distributed is, in fact, correct.

Next steps for the proof involve extensive peer review, something most mathematicians haven't had time to do given the sudden nature of the announcement. "Lots of other top-rate mathematicians have almost but not quite managed to prove it over the years, only for a subtle flaw in the proof to become apparent".

Some academics have expressed doubts, with one highlighting that many great minds have seemingly solved the problem before, only for other researchers to pick holes in their proof later down the line.

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