Monday, 6 April 2009

Fermat's Last Theorem

This is the theorem that has captured the imagination of mathematicians since 1637. One of those problems that is so simple to set, yet fiendishly difficult to prove:

There is no solution to the equation "a*n + b*n = c*n"
(where '*' is 'to the power of', a, b, and c are whole numbers greater than 1, and 'n' is greater than 2).
Of course, there are many solutions when n = 2; they are the Pythagorean Triples, eg 3, 4, 5 or 5, 12, 13. But for n>2? None? Really? Is it true?

Many mathematicians were entranced by the puzzle, but a proof eluded them for over 300 years. Until, in 1993, Andrew Wiles presented his secretly written proof to the world (or, the mathematical community, at least) and, after some revisions, the completed proof was finished in 1994.

So, for my Easter book review, I urge you to read about the history of this puzzle and Andrew Wiles' amazing achievement in

Fermat's Last Theorem

by Simon Singh

Simon researched Andrew Wiles' road to mathematical fame for a television programme, but the book accompanying the programme proved even more popular. Written in an engaging style as a detective story, you can't help but be drawn into the excitement that surrounded the possibility of a proof worked on in secret for seven years.

Also, for enthusiasts, here's a blog dedicated to explaining the theorem and Andrew Wiles proof:

Fermat's Last Theorem

The blog has been going for four years now, so it gives you an idea of how complex the proof is.

Luckily, it won't take you that long to read the book!

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