Congress Commends UM-Led Math Team's Breakthrough E8 Calculation

Mar 30, 2007

A major mathematical breakthrough by a team of 18 scientists, led by University of Maryland mathematician Jeffrey Adams, has been commended by Congress, one week after the work made international headlines when it was announced by the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM), one of the leading math institutes in the U.S.

On Tuesday, March 27, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) read a statement to Congress about the work, which involved mapping one of the largest and most complicated structures in mathematics. If written out on paper, the calculation describing this structure, known as E8, would cover an area the size of Manhattan. Maryland's partners on this project included MIT, Cornell University, University of Michigan and the University of Utah.

"E8 was discovered over a century ago, in 1887, and until now, no one thought the structure could ever be understood," said Adams, project leader and a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Maryland. "This groundbreaking achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge, as well as a major advance in the use of large scale computing to solve complicated mathematical problems. The mapping of E8 may well have unforeseen implications in mathematics and physics which won't be evident for years to come."

E8, (pronounced "E eight") is an example of a Lie (pronounced "Lee") group. Lie groups were invented by the 19th century Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie to study symmetry. Underlying any symmetrical object, such as a sphere, is a Lie group. Balls, cylinders or cones are familiar examples of symmetric three-dimensional objects. Mathematicians study symmetries in higher dimensions. In fact, E8 is the symmetries of a geometric object like a sphere, cylinder or cone, but this object is 57-dimensional. E8 is itself is 248-dimensional.

Rep. McNerney concluded in his statement, which was included in the Congressional Record: "The participants are to be commended for their work that has expanded the limits of human knowledge and brings hitherto unknown beauty and power to grace our human condition." McNerney, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics, represents the district that is home to the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM).

The E8 calculation is part of an ambitious project sponsored by AIM and the National Science Foundation, known as the Atlas of Lie Groups and Representations. The goal of the Atlas project is to determine the unitary representations of all the Lie groups (E8 is the largest of the exceptional Lie groups). This is one of the most important unsolved problems of mathematics. The E8 calculation is a major step, and suggest that the Atlas team is well on the way to solving this problem.

The Atlas team consists of 18 researchers from around the globe. The core group consists of Jeffrey Adams (University of Maryland), Dan Barbasch (Cornell), John Stembridge (University of Michigan), Peter Trapa (University of Utah) , Marc van Leeuwen (Poitiers), David Vogan (MIT), and (until his death in 2006) Fokko du Cloux (Lyon).

Source: University of Maryland

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

Scientists map mouse genome's 'mission control centers'

Nov 19, 2014

When the mouse and human genomes were catalogued more than 10 years ago, an international team of researchers set out to understand and compare the "mission control centers" found throughout the large stretches ...

Weather history time machine

Oct 15, 2014

During the 1930s, North America endured the Dust Bowl, a prolonged era of dryness that withered crops and dramatically altered where the population settled. Land-based precipitation records from the years ...

Adding uncertainty to improve mathematical models

Sep 29, 2014

Mathematicians from Brown University have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. While being as certain as possible is generally the stock and ...

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

17 hours ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

17 hours ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

19 hours 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 : 0

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.