Millennium Post

Calculated steps into the future

Among several things that India has given to the world, the contribution of the legendary, self-taught mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan engages scientists to this day, in hope of bringing out a result that will constructively take humanity a step forward in progression. The young wizard was "discovered" by fellow mathematician G.H. Hardy and after moving to Cambridge where he shook up the math world with his unorthodox mathematics, obtaining results to famous problems through intuition and then let others find the proofs for them. He disliked the formal proofs favoured by most mathematicians. For this reason, he was sometimes described as a conjecture machine, pulling formulas out of thin air, sometimes in dreams. In a recent effort, researchers in Israel have sought to replicate this approach using computing power. This is how Ramanujan has inspired a computer programme that does the same: called the 'Ramanujan Machine', it is basically an algorithm that generates conjectures (mathematical statements that are proposed as true statements) for fundamental constants. This device has been developed by a team of researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology. They have written a paper describing their device and have uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server. Mathematicians and theoretical physicists have long used mathematical theory to contemplate the unsolvable where data does not exist. This 'machine' is more of a concept than an actual machine which exists as a network of computers running algorithms dedicated to finding conjectures about fundamental constants in the form of continued fractions. The purpose of the machine is to come up with conjectures in the form of mathematical formulas that humans can analyse, and hopefully prove to be true mathematically (hence, a conjecture). The team that created the machine is hoping that their idea will inspire future generations of mathematicians. The researchers note that their machine has already discovered dozens of new conjectures. Considering this remarkable accomplishment, a layman has to be nudged with the thought about the common relevance of such an advancement. The whole point of the development is, first the understanding that conjectures are a significant step in the process of making fresh discoveries in any branch of science or maths; the value of Pi is an example. Theoretical benefits apart, new conjectures in mathematics have, however, been much less than satisfactory, the researchers also make a note of this in their paper. The idea is to enhance and accelerate the process of discovery. For the common man to make sense of it, it needs to be understood that any fundamental advancement in any field can serve as stepping stones to greater discoveries and inventions. That is to say that these advancements become the drivers of further innovations. For this to have any real effect, the education system in the present times needs to be shaped in a manner to make room for unconventional methods of learning and creation.

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