By Ann Finkbeiner | October 22, 2012 | 1 Comment
Continuing a preoccupation with movies about science, but this time about math. According to this very nice YouTube person, the Riemann Hypothesis is the most famous unsolved problem in all of math and whoever solves it wins a $7 million prize. I not only can’t solve it, I can’t even understand it. It has to do with prime numbers — those numbers which can’t be divided evenly by any other numbers except themselves and 1 — and with what patterns might be in a long line of primes, or on a plane of primes or something. Beyond that, I remain obdurately innumerate and I don’t even know what Riemann was hypothesizing, except that the phrase “non-trival zeros” is involved.
The Fields Prize is math’s Nobel. Kazanski is a character in the movie Top Gun. IMDb publishes the following conversation.
Iceman: You two really are cowboys.
Maverick: What’s your problem, Kazanski?
Iceman: You’re everyone’s problem. That’s because every time you go up in the air, you’re unsafe. I don’t like you because you’re dangerous.
Maverick: That’s right! Ice… man. I am dangerous.
“Et al.,” of course, is “and all the little people who helped me achieve the glory I have today.”
So Riemann isn’t the point anyway. The point is the difficulty of presenting math or science as a narrative, a story. And that, I understand all too well. Plus the phrase “non-trivial zeros” is deeply moving.