Friday, September 10, 2004

Maths to bring e-commerce to its knees

As we speak, there is speculation amongst the maths community about one of its most cryptic questions. Why are prime numbers prime numbers? What defines there seemingly random pattern? The question is called the Riemann hypothesis, and a mathematician in France might have found the answer.The Riemann hypothesis explains why a prime is a prime. For non mathematicians, a prime is a number divisible by only itself and one (list of the first 1000 primes). Although primes are interesting mathematical material, they are also key to internet cryptography. They ensure that data is safe when transmitted over the web to online stores like Amazon. Louis de Branges, a French-born mathematician currently working in the US, claims to have proved the hypothesis. However, his colleagues are sceptical. The kicker is that whoever solves the problem wins a prize of a million dollars. Prof du Sautoy told UK paper The Guardian that "The proof he has announced is rather incomprehensible. Now mathematicians are less sure that the million has been won". Be sure that when mathematicians find it tough, the concept is pretty intense stuff.Dr Delvin, when asked whether it had been proved, replied "We don't know. We have good reason to assume it has been and within the next 12 months, in the inner core of experts in differential geometry, which is the field we are speaking about, people will start to say, yes, OK, this looks right. But there is not going to be a golden moment."Stay tuned; the effects could be massive. View: Discussion Guardian Article View: PDF Apology from Louis de Branges

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