Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BBC Horizon - Fermat's Last Theorem

I usually comment on films on the IMdb site, but there was no mention of this program episode there. Watching it was much like reading "I am a Mathematician", immersed in a fascinating, yet inaccessible world, the one of professional mathematicians.

I often wonder where do they get the money to sit years on end at their desk to prove a theorem, without telling anyone they intend to. Anyway, the story is about this guy, Andrew Wiles, who had the dream of solving Fermat's last unsolved puzzle and one that Fermat himself wrote he had a beautiful solution to. You see, Fermat wrote some conjectures, some ideas he had, and did not write the solutions, thus failing to turn them into theorems.

A lot of mathematicians struggled to prove them and they succeeded, all but one, a problem so simple to define and yet very difficult to solve: show that there are no natural non zero values that satisfy the following equation for any N larger than 2 : x^N+y^N=z^N.

It is amazing the math that this guy has to explore to solve it. Of course, I understand nothing of it, and the show doesn't try to make anyone understand the math, but the feeling and effort are truly remarkable. A must see for anyone needing motivation to better himself.

You want to watch the film, here it is:


Vleeptron Dude said...

Beside working in total secrecy, Wiles did his research in his attic without a computer or a telephone.

Star Trek fans hate Wiles. In an episode of Star Trek TNG, Jean-Luc Picard discusses his hobby: Trying to prove Fermat's Last Theorem.

Then a couple of years after the episode aired, Wiles proved it. So Star Trek's depiction of our far future is A LIE!!!

Blasphemy! Heresy!

Siderite said...

Well, that is not necessarily true. While Fermat's theorems have been proven, there might still be some Fermat manuscript waiting to be discovered, thus adding a new, unsolved one to the pot.

Besides, any act of observing the future will undoubtedly change it. Star Trek was right 100% when it was aired, but nowadays, who would dare wear a red uniform anymore?

Vleeptron Dude said...

siderite said:

Besides, any act of observing the future will undoubtedly change it.


Now wait a second. That *sounds* really straightforward and scientifically common-sensical.

But it's totally without any evidence or verification as far as I know. We have no idea what the dynamics of and laws regarding seeing the future are.