Tuesday, December 2, 2014

'A beautiful find' by Emory mathematician vies for top science story of 2014

Much of the work of number theorist Ken Ono, above, involves solving long-standing mysteries stemming from the work of Indian math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. (Emory Photo/Video)

A find by Emory mathematician Ken Ono and collaborators ranked 15th in Discover Magazine’s top 100 science stories for 2014.

That makes the discovery of the “Mother Lode of Mathematical Identities” eligible for the magazine’s “people’s choice” awards for the top science story of the year. You can cast your vote for the “Math Breakthrough” by clicking here. The Emory math discovery made it through the first two rounds of voting and is now among the four finalists.

Last summer, Ono and his collaborators Michael Griffin and Ole Warnaar found a framework for the celebrated Rogers-Ramanujan identities and their arithmetic properties, yielding a treasure trove of algebraic numbers and formulas to access them.

“Ole found this huge vein of gold, and we then figured out a way to mine the gold,” Ono said of the discovery. “We went to work and showed how to come full circle and make use of the formulas. Now we can extract infinitely any functions whose values are these beautiful algebraic numbers.”

In the people’s choice awards, the math discovery is vying against stories of cosmic inflation, cybersecurity leaks, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, the battle against the Ebola outbreak, the genomes of the first Americans, entangled photons and the Rosetta spacecraft’s rendezvous with a comet. It was another big year for science news, showcasing a wide range of disciplines. In fact, one of the only things all of these science advances have in common is their reliance on math.

Mathematicians find algebraic gold

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