Two computer scientists at at the University of Liverpool think they have successfully cracked the Erdős discrepancy problem (for a particular discrepancy bound C=2), an 80 year old maths puzzle proposed by the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, who offered $500 for its solution.
They just can't be sure, because it is too big for a human to replicate.The resulting proof generated is an enormous 13 gigabytes, 30 percent larger than downloading all of the content on Wikipedia.
Erdős was fascinated by the extent to which an infinite sequence of numbers containing nothing but +1s and -1s contains internal patterns. One way to measure that is to cut the infinite sequence off at a certain point, and then create finite sub-sequences within that part of the sequence, such as considering only every third number or every fourth.
Adding up the numbers in a sub-sequence gives a figure called the discrepancy, which acts as a measure of the structure of the sub-sequence and in turn the infinite sequence, as compared with a uniform ideal.
Dr. Boris Konev and Dr. Alexei Lisitsa took a sequence 1,161 numbers long and managed to demonstrate that an infinite sequence will always have a discrepancy larger than two. The resulting proof and its 13 gigabytes is probably the longest proof ever and dwarfs another famously huge proof, the Classification Theorem of Finite Groups, which totaled 15,000 pages.
But, although checking this is beyond the reach of humans, they suggest future developments could change that landscape.
Lisitsa, from the University’s School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science, said, “On the one hand, it is true that our computer-generated solution is beyond the reach of humans to fully understand. On the other, all we can say for now is that at the moment there is no known ‘better’ human-comprehensible solution – but it does not mean that such a solution could not (or will not) be found in the future.”
Spot a pattern
Konev added, “Erdős’ hypothesis was that a discrepancy of any value can always be found, a far cry from the discrepancies of 1 and 2 that have now been proven. Our software has been running for weeks in an attempt to find a result for discrepancy 3. But even if subsequent programs show that higher and higher discrepancies exist for any infinite sequence, a computer cannot check the infinity of all numbers.”
Instead, it is likely that computer-assisted proofs for specific discrepancies will eventually enable a human to spot a pattern and come up with a proof for all numbers, Lisitsa concluded.
Source: University of Liverpool.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Kudos To "The Independent" Newspaper For Debunking Nibiru "Blood Moon" Hoax
- Your Microbiome Did Not Cause Your Weight Problem
- A Great Blitz Game
- Free Market Validation: Men With Hair Transplants Are Seen As Younger, More Attractive
- Stopping Scars Before They Form
- Control Cancer By Making The Tumor Cell Environment Hostile
- Link Between Drug Industry And Cancer Care Guidelines
- "Great, glad to hear it and thanks for signing the petition :)...."
- "Well, I´m not worried anymore about nibiru, because I know is a hoax afterall and also I sign..."
- "Thanks, Skynix, glad you like the articles. Yes of course, to many readers of Science20 then what..."
- "Yes that's a good point, the Moon can look reddish just as the sun does when close to the horizon..."
- "When will you people open your eyes and see that this is very much real and thats a FACT..."
- Gallup Poll: Great Example of How to Bias a Social Science Study
- Another Kardashian Craze Debunked
- Fad Friday: Ditch The Body Wrap!
- Commonly Cited Stat of 10 Bacteria for Every 1 Human Cell Is Wrong
- Why The EpiPen And Other Generic Drugs Are So Expensive
- Latest IARC Report Connects Fatness with More Cancers
- Solving a 48-year-old mystery: Scientists grow noroviruses in human intestinal cell cultures
- Scripps Florida scientists shed new light on the role of calcium in learning and memory
- Volcanic eruption masked acceleration in sea level rise
- Sunflowers move from east to west, and back, by the clock
- Earlier snowmelt reduces forests' ability to regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide