Michael Atiyah: Has the Riemann hypothesis been ‘solved’?

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Michael Atiyah: Has the Riemann hypothesis been 'solved'?
Michael Atiyah: Has the Riemann hypothesis been 'solved'?

Has the Riemann hypothesis been ‘solved’? Who is Michael Atiyah? And why is it so important?.

A math whiz has claimed to have solved a problem that has been boggling mathematicians for 160 years.

Retired mathematician Michael Atiyah said he will present “simple proof” of the Riemann hypothesis while attending a talk in Germany this week.

The 90-year old has said he expects a backlash from fellow mathematicians.

He said: “Nobody believes any proof of the Riemann hypothesis, let alone proof by someone who’s 90.”

So what is the Riemann hypothesis, why is it so important and has it really been solved? Here’s what you need to know:

What is the Riemann hypothesis?

The Riemann hypothesis is named after the German mathematician G.F.B Riemann, who observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behaviour of an elaborate function.

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If you’re confused already, you’re supposed to be – this equation has baffled the mathematics world for over a century.

To try and put it simply, the Riemann hypothesis is based on prime numbers – those that can’t be divided by other numbers than themselves and one.

Reimann noticed that the distribution of these numbers is very similar to a function called the Riemann Zeta Function:

ζ(s) = 1/1s + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + …. up to infinity

Reimann was never able to prove this theory, however.

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Why is the Riemann hypothesis so important?

Prime numbers have always been a source of confusion for mathematicians, so if the Riemann hypothesis were to be confirmed, it would be big news.

Mathematicians would effectively be armed with the tool to locate prime numbers as the hypothesis is connected to the distribution of prime numbers.

The Riemann hypothesis is also one of the six unsolved Clay Millennium Problems, so whoever solves it would be eligible for a $1 million prize.

Who is Michael Atiyah?

Michael Atiyah is a famed now-retired mathematician. During his career, he earned a Fields Medal and the Abel Prize – the maths equivalent to a Nobel prize.

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Mr Atiyah has also served as president of the London Mathematical Society, the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Has the Riemann hypothesis been solved?

No one can say for sure yet as the mathematics community has yet to respond to Mr Atiyah’s latest revelation.

It’s not the first time someone has claimed to have solved the Riemann hypothesis, though.

In 2015, rumours were swirling about a Nigerian professor named Opeyemi Enoch who had allegedly cracked the hypothesis – it was later proved to be untrue.

So could this be the end of one the greatest conundrums of all time? Watch this space…

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