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Million Dollar Prize Offered For ‘Unsolvable’ Math Problem

Friday, June 07, 2013

 

After 16 years, the prize for solving the Beal Conjecture has risen to a cool $1 million.

How good is your math? It could win you a million dollars, if you can solve a heretofore unsolvable math problem, according to the Rhode Island-based American Mathematical Society.

The prize comes thanks to the math passions (and deep pockets) of Texas billionaire banker, Andrew Beal, who has offered the reward for solving the eponymous Beal Conjecture number theory.

The story behind the prize

After attempting to solve Fermat’s last theorem himself, Beal, a self-taught mathematician, came up with the Beal Conjecture hypothesis. When no answer could be found to the conjecture, Beal offered a prize for a solution in 1997. Initially the prize was $5,000; however the reward has slowly increased since then.

Although the money is a strong incentive, Beal hopes the competition will “inspire young mathematicians and spur general interest in mathematics,” said AMS spokeswoman Annette Emerson.

AMS holds the prize money in a trust until a solution is found. The interest earned from the Beal Prize fund trust supports an annual lecture named after the mathematician Paul Erdős. The lectures began in 1999 and have featured prominent mathematicians and distinguished professors. The interest from the fund “will also help support some of the Society's other programs and services that in turn benefit the mathematical community worldwide,” said Emerson.

Good Will Hunting? Not yet. 

AMS has received hundreds of attempted solutions over the years, but to no avail... yet. "Since the problem is so difficult only about seven attempted solutions in the form of articles were submitted to journals; those papers went through the usual referee process as far as we know, but did not solve the conjecture” said Emerson.

Do you feel lucky? Or better yet, brilliant? For those who are wishing to submit a solution for the million-dollar prize, the publication guidelines can be found here.
 

 

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