Math Is Hard

2004-09-07 16:17:22

Riemann Surfaces
Maths Holy Grail Could Bring Disaster For Internet

I thought this was an astonishingly clear description of the practical implications associated with finding a proof of the Riemann Conjecture, from Marcus du Sautoy of Oxford University:

"The whole of e-commerce depends on prime numbers. I have described the primes as atoms: what mathematicians are missing is a kind of mathematical prime spectrometer. Chemists have a machine that, if you give it a molecule, will tell you the atoms that it is built from. Mathematicians haven't invented a mathematical version of this. That is what we are after. If the Riemann hypothesis is true, it won't produce a prime number spectrometer. But the proof should give us more understanding of how the primes work, and therefore the proof might be translated into something that might produce this prime spectrometer. If it does, it will bring the whole of e-commerce to its knees, overnight. So there are very big implications."