June 6, 2013
Need A Million Bucks? Solve Beal’s Conjecture
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Looking for a way to make $1 million? All you need to do is solve a math equation that has been boggling the minds of the world´s greatest mathematicians for over 20 years.
The conjecture was first proposed in 1993 while Beal was working on Fermat´s Last Theorem. He noted that both equations are “easy to say, but extremely difficult to prove.”
“Increasing the prize is a good way to draw attention to mathematics generally and the Beal Conjecture specifically,” said Beal. “I hope many more young people will find themselves drawn into the wonderful world of mathematics."
Currently working as a banker in Dallas, Beal first offered up a $5,000 prize to anyone who could perform the proof back in 1997. He has increased the reward several times over the years without a solution being found. The $1 million prize is a ten-fold upgrade from Beal´s last offer of $100,000.
“I was inspired by the prize offered for proving Fermat,” said the self-taught mathematician who professes an affinity for number theory.
Andrew Wiles and Richard Taylor solved Fermat´s Last Theorem in 1995, more than 350 years“¯after it was first posed and collected around $50,000 for their work. French mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed he had a proof more than 300 years ago, but did not leave an adqueate record of it.
Instead of being relegated to the arcane fields of mathematics and number theory, Fermat´s Last Theorem has enjoyed quite a bit or referencing in popular culture. One episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation showed a 24th century Captain Jean-Luc Picard searching for a solution to the fabled theorem. That episode aired in 1989, six years before the solution to the proof was discovered.
To earn the prize money for Beal´s equation, participants have two years to present either a solution or counterexample. The proposed solution must be published in a respected mathematics journal, while the counterexample is subject to independent confirmation, the American Mathematical Society (AMS) said in a statement.
While Beal´s Conjecture has been with us for about two decades, it is by no means the oldest unsolved mathematical equation. That honor belongs to Goldbach's Conjecture, which was“¯posed by the eponymous Russian mathematician in 1742, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. That theorem asserts that every even consecutive positive integer starting with four is the total of two prime numbers.
At its current level, the prize for Beal´s Conjecture isn´t the biggest cash prize to ever be offered for solving a math equation. In 2000,“¯the Clay Mathematics Institute offered seven $1 million awards for the solution to seven separate math problems. One of the problems was solved by the Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman who turned down the prize money in 2010.
The AMS is tasked with determining which mathematics publications meet the standards for publishing the Beal´s solution and is currently holding the prize funds in a trust.