5 results back to index
Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh
Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Fellow of the Royal Society, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, kremlinology, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, Rubik’s Cube, Simon Singh, Wolfskehl Prize
The proceedings describe how Gabriel Lamé, who had proved the case n = 7 some years earlier, took the podium in front of the most eminent mathematicians of the age and proclaimed that he was on the verge of proving Fermat’s Last Theorem. He admitted that his proof was still incomplete, but he outlined his method and predicted with relish that he would in the coming weeks publish a complete proof in the Academy’s journal. The entire audience was stunned, but as soon as Lamé left the floor Augustin Louis Cauchy, another of Paris’s finest mathematicians, asked for permission to speak. Cauchy announced to the Academy that he had been working along similar lines to Lamé, and that he too was about to publish a complete proof. Both Cauchy and Lamé realised that time was of the essence. Whoever would be first to submit a complete proof would receive the most prestigious and valuable prize in mathematics.
By adding one more term x4, we get the next level of polynomial equation, known as the quartic: By the nineteenth century, mathematicians also had recipes which could be used to find solutions to the cubic and the quartic equations, but there was no known method for finding solutions to the quintic equation: Galois became obsessed with finding a recipe for solving quintic equations, one of the great challenges of the era, and by the age of seventeen he had made sufficient progress to submit two research papers to the Academy of Sciences. The referee appointed to judge the papers was Augustin-Louis Cauchy, who many years later would argue with Lamé over an ultimately flawed proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Cauchy was highly impressed by the young man’s work and judged it worthy of being entered for the Academy’s Grand Prize in Mathematics. In order to qualify for the competition the two papers would have to be re-submitted in the form of a single memoir, so Cauchy returned them to Galois and awaited his entry.
Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Black-Scholes formula, British Empire, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cepheid variable, creative destruction, crony capitalism, diversified portfolio, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, fixed income, Henri Poincaré, I will remember that I didn’t make the world, and it doesn’t satisfy my equations, Isaac Newton, law of one price, Mikhail Gorbachev, Myron Scholes, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, riskless arbitrage, savings glut, Schrödinger's Cat, Sharpe ratio, stochastic volatility, the scientific method, washing machines reduced drudgery, yield curve
New developments in mathematics, from calculus to topology, have often been initiated by physicists who, by means of intuition and persistence, have sneakily but sloppily invented new kinds of mathematics that were only later made rigorous by purists. Newton invented the calculus in the seventeenth century to handle mechanics, and its foundations were satisfactorily cleaned up years later by Augustin-Louis Cauchy and his contemporaries. In the late 1940s, reconnoitering around the technical difficulties of the Dirac sea, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, and Shin’ichiro Tomonaga found an ingenious way to suppress the technical infinities of quantum electrodynamics by means of a judicious combination of extreme care and chicanery. Their starting point was never to forget that the normal quotidian electron we “see” every day is not the bare electron.
The Misbehavior of Markets by Benoit Mandelbrot
Albert Einstein, asset allocation, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Benoit Mandelbrot, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Black-Scholes formula, British Empire, Brownian motion, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, carbon-based life, discounted cash flows, diversification, double helix, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Elliott wave, equity premium, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Fellow of the Royal Society, full employment, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, implied volatility, index fund, informal economy, invisible hand, John Meriwether, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, market microstructure, Myron Scholes, new economy, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price mechanism, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ralph Nelson Elliott, RAND corporation, random walk, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, stochastic volatility, transfer pricing, value at risk, Vilfredo Pareto, volatility smile
But cumulatively, over time or across a population, the way the results vary forms a regular and predictable pattern. The data points are grains of sand on a shoreline, blades of grass in a lawn, electrons moving along a copper wire. The Blindfolded Archer’s Score Now, this is a convenient way to look at the world, but is it the only way? Not at all. Late in his long life, the nineteenth-century French mathematician Augustin-Louis Cauchy thought of an especially tricky one. It was, when I was younger, viewed as interesting—but unrealistic and contrived. My work made it very real. I think the theory best imagined in terms of an archer standing before a target painted on an infinitely long wall. He is blindfolded and consequently shoots at random, in any direction. Most of the time, of course, he misses. In fact, half of the time he shoots away from the wall, but let us not even record those cases.
The Music of the Primes by Marcus Du Sautoy
Ada Lovelace, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, computer age, Dava Sobel, Dmitri Mendeleev, Eratosthenes, Erdős number, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, German hyperinflation, global village, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, music of the spheres, New Journalism, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine, William of Occam, Wolfskehl Prize, Y2K
Riemann’s response to the mathematical revolution spreading from the Paris academies was not that of a reactionary. Berlin was importing not only political propaganda from Paris, but also many of the prestigious journals and publications coming out of the academies. Riemann received the latest volumes of the influential French journal Comptes Rendus and holed himself up in his room to pore over papers by the mathematical revolutionary Augustin-Louis Cauchy. Cauchy was a child of the Revolution, born a few weeks after the fall of the Bastille in 1789. Undernourished by the little food available during those years, the feeble young Cauchy preferred to exercise his mind rather than his body. In time-honoured fashion, the mathematical world provided a refuge for him. A mathematical friend of Cauchy’s father, Lagrange, recognised the young boy’s precocious talent and commented to a contemporary, ‘You see that little young man?
The Power Makers by Maury Klein
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, British Empire, business climate, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, margin call, Menlo Park, price stability, railway mania, Right to Buy, the scientific method, trade route, transcontinental railway, working poor
In devising this theory he resorted to the luminiferous (“light-carrying”) ether as the agent bringing matter and electricity together. Few things baffled or divided scientists more than this mysterious substance. As described by Augustin-Jean Fresnel, a French physicist who argued that light consisted of waves, the luminiferous ether was a gaslike substance through which both light and solids somehow moved. A French mathematician, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, worked out a mathematical basis for the properties of ether that made Fresnel’s theory at least plausible if not satisfying to scientists.33 The wave theory of light required that ether be perfectly elastic and offer no resistance to a body passing through it. To these demands Ampère added a new chemical wrinkle: The ether was not simple but compound in nature and could “only be considered, in the generally adopted theory of two electric fluids, as the combination of these two fluids in that proportion in which they mutually saturate one another.”