The latest efforts to comprehend a mammoth mathematical proof have ended in failure and confusion. More than three years after it was released, the mathematician behind it is no closer to having his potentially groundbreaking work accepted by his peers. Can anyone understand the mind of Shinichi Mochizuki?
Last week dozens of mathematicians met at the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford to discuss Mochizuki’s “inter-universal Teichmuller” (IUT) theory, a 500-page proof that he posted online in August 2012. Mochizuki’s work offered a solution to the ABC conjecture, a long-standing problem about the fundamental nature of numbers that starts with the simple equation a + b = c. In doing so, Mochizuki created a new branch of mathematics.
His peers praised his efforts at the time, but cautioned it would take a while for them to get to grips with Mochizuki’s baroque inventions. Since then, only a few have managed to do that. In January this year, Mochizuki berated his colleagues for attempting to merely skim the work, rather than embrace it as a whole.
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