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Math Science

Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-your-dreams dept.
jomama717 writes "Another chapter in the fascinating life of Srinivasa Ramanujan appears to be complete: 'While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right. "We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said. Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.'"
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Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @12:27AM (#42408733)

    Probably a lot of pot.

  • by ahabswhale (1189519) on Friday December 28, 2012 @12:35AM (#42408759)

    So, because he ended up losing his mind, that invalidates all his accomplishments?

  • by korgitser (1809018) on Friday December 28, 2012 @01:51AM (#42409119)

    Actually, Newton was an alchemist foremost. He only did physics and calculus to help with his alchemy.
    And no, alchemy was not the crackpot gold-seeking they teach it was in history class. Promises of gold were and still are what gets you the funding. Alchemy was a larger discipline concerned with truth about the world, a kind of philosophy 2.0 that finally recognized the need for empirical data and experiment; the most advanced worldview up to that point. Later, as it progressed, physics and chemistry were branched out from it, other parts merged into medicine, philosophy and humanities.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:14AM (#42409211) Journal

    I suspect that you're quite wrong. The man was a mathematical prodigy. I don't think it was a matter of choice at all, but rather some sort of unique wiring

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:38AM (#42409315)

    Whenever I read submissions like this, I wonder why they put a sentence like "genius in flunked out of ...". Unless the area they were a genius in was the same one he/she failed at, it seems kind of flame-bait - trying to start an "school is useless - look at these outliers" discussion.

    Ramanujan was brilliant at mathematics, and there is no denying that. But like any school/college, his was made for the average person. Sure, it would be great if education was tailored to each individual's aptitude. But we don't have a good way of finding out what that is directly yet. Instead, we throw a bunch of subjects at students, and they figure out where there relative strengths are. And they focus on one or two areas where their natural aptitude lies (or more realistically, where their job prospects and abilities/interests combine to give "best" results; best being chosen by the student. Some may chase money, others fame, others just want to solve interesting problems - applications/paycheck be damned).

    And discovering outliers early is hard when the teachers themselves are not much better at their subjects than the students. If some kindergarten student started using calculus for loading of building blocks, it won't be much use if her teacher doesn't realize that what she is doing is phenomenal (especially since the child will have her own notations/symbols). Obviously, that is an extreme example, but the point remains - outliers will have a tough time in the current system.

    Alternatively, we can let everyone do what they find interesting, but a majority of students will just spend time doing "fun" things like sports - which is not necessarily bad. But as long as we have the current system where you starve if you can't hold down a job doing "productive things", I think the educational system prepares most people for such a world.

    Outliers are great - and can help speed up society's progress significantly. But at the end of the day, they are just that - outliers. If you design a system to help the outliers, most people (myself included) would wind up getting a very bad outcome - because most people aren't phenomenally skilled at anything (and no, being the best me I can be doesn't cut it). And if you have a lot of starving deadbeats on the street (instead of the mediocre, but holding down a job majority) I expect society to completely break down - and that won't help the outliers either.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:15AM (#42409409) Journal

    There's no way to know because he's dead, but there's certainly a body of evidence suggesting neurological differences between genius level mathemetic prodigies to suggest that a poor young man from an Indian village who literally taught himself 100 years worth of mathematics was in possession of cognitive abilities beyond the average person's.

    The amount of grey matter is an obscenely crude way to measure intelligence. What I find interesting is your need to make the man average and ordinary. Does the possibility that some have greater cognitive capacity than others bother you?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:38AM (#42409467)
    Chimp grey matter contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called prodigies. Chimp DNA is pretty similar to human DNA too. A chimp is not going to equal Ramanujan in math despite how much willpower it has. They just don't have the ability.

    So your argument is just as silly as those "you can do anything if you just try hard enough" bullshit cliches.

    If you think it's so simple, go ask the top athletes/musicians why they aren't all number one despite most of them spending much of their life training, practicing etc. You think it's because they lack willpower to push themselves to their limits? They're not trying hard enough?

    I may not know my exact max limits, but I know that no matter how much I try I am never going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, and I'm never going to be as good at math as Ramanujan. Thinking otherwise is foolishness or hubris even.

    I'm all for people trying to improve themselves and others, but I'm against spreading bullshit. The world would be a better place if more humans fully realized and admitted how crap they were, but still persisted in helping and bettering others despite their limitations.
  • by Rational (1990) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:52AM (#42409739)
    "The grey matter in between your ears contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called "prodigies"." Interestingly, the grey matter between our ears contains largely the same chemicals as the matter between the ears of most vertebrates, and in smaller amounts than some other mammals. As far as reductionism goes, I think you've taken it to a pretty absurd level.

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