Kevin Hartnett

Senior Writer

number theory

Without a Proof, Mathematicians Wonder How Much Evidence Is Enough

A new statistical model appears to undermine long-held assumptions in number theory. How much should it be trusted when all that really matters is proof?

Art for "A Proof About Where Symmetries Can’t Exist"
geometry

A Proof About Where Symmetries Can’t Exist

In a major mathematical achievement, a small team of researchers has proven Zimmer’s conjecture.

Art for "Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room"
artificial intelligence

Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room

A visual prank exposes an Achilles’ heel of computer vision systems: Unlike humans, they can’t do a double take.

Art for "Why Mathematicians Can’t Find the Hay in a Haystack"
Abstractions blog

Why Mathematicians Can’t Find the Hay in a Haystack

In math, sometimes the most common things are the hardest to find.

Illustration of a complex shape casting a shadow
geometry

Tinkertoy Models Produce New Geometric Insights

An upstart field that simplifies complex shapes is letting mathematicians understand how those shapes depend on the space in which you visualize them.

algorithms

Universal Method to Sort Complex Information Found

The nearest neighbor problem asks where a new point fits into an existing data set. A few researchers set out to prove that there was no universal way to solve it. Instead, they found such a way.

Photo illustration of Caucher Birkar
2018 Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize Winners

An Innovator Who Brings Order to an Infinitude of Equations

The mathematician Caucher Birkar was born on a subsistence farm and raised in the middle of the brutal war between Iran and Iraq. After fleeing to England, he has gone on to impose order on a wild landscape of mathematical equations.

Photo illustration of Alessio Figalli
2018 Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize Winners

A Traveler Who Finds Stability in the Natural World

The mathematician Alessio Figalli is rarely in one place for very long. But his work has established the stability of everything from crystals to weather fronts by using concepts derived from Napoleonic fortifications.

Art for "Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager"
quantum computing

Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager

18-year-old Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the “recommendation problem” nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result eliminates one of the best examples of quantum speedup.