FUN: Math's Unsolved Mysteries

Science  09 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5506, pp. 951
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5506.951c

Despite the solution of Fermat's Last Theorem in 1994, mathematicians are still swimming in unsolved problems—many of which can be understood by nonmathematicians. Steven Finch of MathSoft Inc. has collected a goodly number of them and linked to others on one site. It's an invaluable resource for those who wish to tilt at mathematical windmills.

For instance, there's the 3x + 1 conjecture. Take a number; if it's even, halve it, but if it's odd, multiply it by 3 and add one. The conjecture states that, no matter what number you start with, you'll end up with the number 1 eventually. Nobody has proven this—nor have they proven elementary conjectures about huddling armadillos, crossing moats with wooden planks, and escaping from a forest in the least amount of time. Beware, though; these problems can be dangerously addictive.

Navigate This Article