Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Victoria researcher solves 40 year-old math problem

MEDIA RELEASE

15 August 2013

Victoria researcher solves 40 year-old math problem

A Victoria University of Wellington mathematician has experienced his own eureka moment, solving a 40 year-old mathematical problem.

Professor Geoff Whittle, from Victoria’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, has been working with colleagues Professor Jim Geelen (Canada) and Professor Bert Gerards (Netherlands) to solve a problem posed by the famous mathematician and philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota in 1970.

Earlier this year the trio realised that, after more than 15 years of work, they had achieved all the essential ingredients to prove Rota’s Conjecture.

Geoff visited the United Kingdom last month to break news of the discovery to mathematics colleagues at a conference where he was a guest speaker.

Rota’s Conjecture relates to a specialised area of mathematics known as matroid theory, a modern form of geometry, which Geoff specialises in.

Rather than focusing on distance and angles, matroid theory investigates properties of structures which don’t change under projection—for example, whether or not three points are always on a line, or four points are on a plane.

The theory investigates geometric structures that can be completely different from those in our world, and Rota’s Conjecture is a way of using mathematics to recognise these alternative structures.

“I like to compare it to Kafka’s Metamorphosis story, where a man wakes up and realises he has transformed into an insect—the way he views the world changes entirely,” says Geoff. 

“Matroid theory is all about visualising a world of new geometrical structures and developing ways of describing the big, overarching structures which would emerge.”

Although he has been working on proving Rota’s Conjecture for a long period of time, Geoff says the hard work will really begin now, as the team starts writing up the results of its work.

“Resolving Rota’s Conjecture is really special, and the product of many, many years of collaborative work.

“Now, we have a lot of writing to do, which I expect to take several more years—as well as many hundreds of pages of journal articles.”

“It’s a little bit like discovering a new mountain—we’ve crossed many hurdles to reach a new destination and we have returned scratched, bloodied and bruised from the arduous journey—we now need to create a pathway so others can reach it.” 

Head of School Dr Peter Donelan is also excited about the news, which he believes will attract international recognition.

“This will be regarded as one of the outstanding mathematical achievements in recent years,” he says.

Geoff has been based at Victoria University since 1992, when he joined the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research as a lecturer. He was promoted to Reader in 1997 and to Professor in 2001.

Geoff is recognised as a world leader in the field of discrete mathematics. He has spent time as a visiting research fellow at Merton College, Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 1996, his achievements were recognised with the New Zealand Mathematical Society’s Research Award.

Watch a video of Geoff talking about his career and research here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw8D15amE_4

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Scoop Business: RBNZ Keeps OCR At 3.5%, Signals Slower Pace Of Future Hikes

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 3.5 percent and signalled he won’t be as aggressive with future rate hikes as previously thought as inflation remains tamer than expected. The kiwi dollar fell to a seven-month low. More>>

ALSO:

Weather: Dry Spells Take Hold In South Island

Many areas in the South Island are tracking towards record dry spells as relatively warm, dry weather that began in mid-August continues... for some South Island places, the current period of fine weather is quite rare. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Productivity Commission To Look At Housing Land Supply

The Productivity Commission is to expand on its housing affordability report with an investigation into improving land supply and development capacity, particularly in areas with strong population growth. More>>

ALSO:

Forestry: Man Charged After 2013 Death

Levin Police have arrested and charged a man with manslaughter in relation to the death of Lincoln Kidd who was killed during a tree felling operation on 19 December 2013. More>>

ALSO:

Smells Like Justice: Dairy Company Fined Over Odour

Dairy company fined over odour Dairy supply company Open Country Dairy Limited has been convicted and fined more than $35,000 for discharging objectionable odour from its Waharoa factory at the time of last year’s ”spring flush” when milk supply was high. More>>

Scoop Business: Dairy Product Prices Decline To Lowest Since July 2012

Dairy product prices dropped to the lowest level since July 2012 in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction, led by a slump in rennet casein and butter milk powder. More>>

ALSO:

SOE Results: TVNZ Lifts Annual Profit 25% On Flat Ad Revenue, Quits Igloo

Television New Zealand, the state-owned broadcaster, lifted annual profit 25 percent, ahead of forecast and despite a dip in advertising revenue, while quitting its stake in the pay-TV Igloo joint venture with Sky Network Television. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand

Mosh Social Media
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news