Glimpses of a new (mathematical) world

Mar 13, 2008

A new mathematical object was revealed yesterday during a lecture at the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM). Two researchers from the University of Bristol exhibited the first example of a third degree transcendental L-function. These L-functions encode deep underlying connections between many different areas of mathematics.

The news caused excitement at the AIM workshop attended by 25 of the world's leading analytic number theorists. The work is a joint project between Ce Bian and his adviser, Andrew Booker. Booker commented that, "This work was made possible by a combination of theoretical advances and the power of modern computers." During his lecture, Bian reported that it took approximately 10,000 hours of computer time to produce his initial results.

"This breakthrough opens a door to the study of higher degree L-functions," said Dennis Hejhal, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota and Uppsala University.

"It's a big advance' added Harold Stark of the University of California, San Diego, who, 30 years ago was the first to accurately calculate second degree transcendental L-functions.

"I thought we were years away from doing this. The geometry of what you have to do and the scale of the computation are orders of magnitude harder."

There are two types of L-functions: algebraic and transcendental, and these are classified according to their degree. The Riemann zeta-function is the grand-daddy of all L-functions. It holds the secret to how the prime numbers are distributed, and is a first-degree algebraic L-function.

The Riemann Hypothesis, announced in 1859 and today the most important of all unsolved math problems, is an example of something that should be true for EVERY L-function. Michael Rubinstein from the University of Waterloo, a participant at the workshop, quickly tested and confirmed the Riemann Hypothesis for the first few zeroes of this newly minted L-function.

Rubinstein, along with William Stein of the University of Washington, will direct a new initiative to chart all L-functions; this project has been recommended for funding by the National Science Foundation. "The techniques developed by Bian and Booker open up whole new possibilities for experimenting with these powerful and mysterious functions and are a key step towards making our group project a success." Rubinstein added.

"It's a big step toward our understanding the 'world of L', which is where most of the secrets of number theory are kept." said Brian Conrey, Director of AIM.

Dorian Goldfeld, Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University summarized the excitement, saying "This discovery is analogous to finding planets in remote solar systems. We know they are out there, but the problem is to detect them and determine what they look like. It gives us a glimpse of new worlds."

Source: American Institute of Mathematics

Explore further: A numbers game: Math helps to predict how the body fights disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the future with abstract algebra

Nov 17, 2014

Ask people what they know about the frontiers of mathematics research, and the response is usually some variation on: "What is there to research about math?"

Converting data into knowledge

Nov 17, 2014

When a movie-streaming service recommends a new film you might like, sometimes that recommendation becomes a new favorite; other times, the computer's suggestion really misses the mark. Yisong Yue, assistant ...

Recommended for you

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

6 minutes ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

voiceofuruguay
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2008
i wish i knew what an L function was
TomJames
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2008
Yeah me too...
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2008
http://en.wikiped...unctions better'n a sharp stick in the eye
earls
1 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2008
http://en.wikiped...function

Imagine that.

Oh, and for those that want the real scoop:

http://uncycloped...function
Paradox
3 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2008
i wish i knew what an L function was

it is the one right after the "K" function. lol!
superhuman
4 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2008
In case of advanced math reading wiki doesn't help much, there are too many interconnections between all those ideas and each of them is so abstract that it requires a lot of work to understand.
AdseculaScientiae
4 / 5 (1) Mar 16, 2008
I don't understand these L-functions either, but I'm interested what this really means to mathematics, could someone give me a hint about this?
GBogumil
not rated yet Mar 17, 2008
L-function generates new elements (actually new functions) for the L-series. L-series is a special series of elements that meets the axoims given by it's definition. http://en.wikiped...finition

These are functions that have functions, not numbers, as arguments.

What's it all used for? Basically prime numbers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.