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Math Science

Ramanujan's Deathbed Conjecture Finally Proven 186

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 TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @12:09AM (#42408675)

    Obsessed, and smart.

    He had a mathematician's mind, sure. Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright and particularly attuned for maths. But what he had that sets us apart, was a raging obsession. The kind of demon that consumed Newton and possessed him to calculate pages of logarithms and Tesla to study from dusk 'til dawn and further, without respite.

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @12:09AM (#42408679)
    I wonder what would happen if US colleges (or even earlier in our educational system) let students have free reign, and really specialize. If over in India this man had been nurtured in college, and allowed to stay in math courses (or even better conduct his own lines of study), might he have had a more enjoyable or productive life? If we recognize genius and cultivate it, what might grow in that garden?
  • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @12:42AM (#42408789)

    Newton later turned to alchemy, and was obsessed with disproving the trinity.

  • by pollarda ( 632730 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @02:40AM (#42409325)
    Yes, Tesla was a bit eccentric in the latter part of his life. On the other hand, his behavior is quite symptomatic of exposure to high frequency electromagnetic radiation. Just because he fried himself doesn't make his accomplishments less impressive. Madame Currie had a similar problem when radiation which nobody thought was bad for you at the time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:57AM (#42409533)

    Probably not much brighter than what we consider reasonably bright and particularly attuned for maths.

    Give a reasonably bright math graduate an entire lifetime and he is unlikely to be able to reinvent all the math that Ramanujan reinvented due to not knowing it already existed, nor invent all the new math stuff that Ramanujan came up with. Ramanujan did all that in only 32 years.

    The merely obsessive would get stuck in ruts or fruitless paths. Ramanujan came up with tons of stuff.

    The way his mind works is pretty different:

    He was sharing a room with P. C. Mahalanobis who had a problem, "Imagine that you are on a street with houses marked 1 through n. There is a house in between (x) such that the sum of the house numbers to left of it equals the sum of the house numbers to its right. If n is between 50 and 500, what are n and x?" This is a bivariate problem with multiple solutions. Ramanujan thought about it and gave the answer with a twist: He gave a continued fraction. The unusual part was that it was the solution to the whole class of problems. Mahalanobis was astounded and asked how he did it. "It is simple. The minute I heard the problem, I knew that the answer was a continued fraction. Which continued fraction, I asked myself. Then the answer came to my mind," Ramanujan replied.

    This is not the "normal" savant rapid addition/multiplication sort of stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:27AM (#42409603)

    An engineer who never had to take a biology class never looks to nature for a simple solution and keeps banging his head against the wall studying more and more about solutions that have already been tried.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:49AM (#42409629) Homepage

    The grey matter in between your ears contains similar amount of chemicals as the ones inside the head of those so-called "prodigies".

    So if I put your brain in a blender, it should work the same afterwards right? Silly argument.

    Unless it is proven that that deceased Indian math genius suffered from some acute type of "savant syndrome", I seriously doubt his brain has any "unique wiring" of any kind.

    Perhaps not unique in that you'd see a difference on a brain scanner at the macro level, but I think it's more about being wired right or wrong. Look at people playing chess, the poor players aren't making any less of an effort but they're just overlooking moves or forgetting what paths they have and haven't explored or miscalculating because they don't see the piece is pinned. Your average player has an early botched Pentium and flaky non-ECC RAM, the grandmasters an Xeon with RAS features and ECC RAM. They very rarely think wrong or remember wrong, of course there's also training but I think it's also a lot what you're given from nature's side. It doesn't help if the same number of neurons are firing if in one brain it only leads to noise and nonsense and in the other to answers and solutions.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.