A Japanese mathematician named Shinichi Mochizuki, from Kyoto University, has caused a huge controversy in the world of science after publishing last August a research paper that has some unusual attributes: it could be brilliant, but unfortunately there is virtually nobody that has the skills – or the patience – to read it through and completely understand it.
Mochizuki, 43, is a solitary mathematician, who in the last 20 years took to himself a job that nobody else wanted. The task to find a proof of one of the most legendary unsolved problems in mathematics, known as the ABC conjecture.
In short, the ABC conjecture is a recent problem in mathematics, first formulated in 1985 to describe the relationship between three numbers: a, b, and their sum, c. The theory says that if those three numbers do not have any factors in common apart from 1, then the product of their distinct prime factors (when raised to a power slightly greater than one), is almost always going to be greater than c.
If proved true, the theory would have many interesting consequences in math. The problem is that Mochizuki’s work is spread over some 500 pages, filled with unusual terms like “inter-universal Teichmüller theory” and “alien arithmetic holomorphic structures,” reflecting the fact that he worked entirely alone and developed a whole new universe which others, even experienced mathematicians, find it now nearly impossible to penetrate.
The options for other scientists now boil down to two scenarios, according to the Boston Globe. If they are willing to lay down the time and energy to study Mochizuki’s work, they may, most probably, either stumble down a colossal blind alley or discover things that will change mathematics forever.