Mathematician may have cracked $1 million riddle but doubts abound.
Mathematician may have cracked $1 million riddle but doubts abound.

$1 million maths Everest ‘solved’

A RENOWNED mathematician claims to have cracked one of the field's most enduring riddles - and it could earn him US$1 million.

In a 45-minute talk on Monday at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany, Sir Michael Atiyah presented what he said was a "simple proof" to the elusive 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis.

"Solve the Riemann hypothesis and you become famous. If you are famous already, you become infamous," said 89-year-old Atiyah during his talk.

The equation, referred to as the "Everest of mathematics," is connected to the distribution of prime numbers - those that can only be divided by themselves and the number one.

They eventually continue into an infinite pattern but are hard to trace.

If the hypothesis is proved, mathematicians would have a map of all prime numbers - considered an incredible breakthrough in the field.

If you think you can handle it, you can find the paper here.

"Nobody believes any proof of the Riemann hypothesis because it is so difficult. Nobody has proved it, so why should anybody prove it now? Unless, of course, you have a totally new idea," Mr Atiyah said.

The mathematician emeritus at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who has won multiple awards, said his proof combined the insights of two leading 20th century mathematicians.

"It looks miraculous," said Mr Atiyah, "but I claim that all the hard work was done 70 years ago."

If he's correct, the New Hampshire-based Clay Mathematics Institute would award him the $1 million Millennium Prize - offered for a range of confounding problems - but not before a rigorous peer review process.

But some of his peers think his maths is a bit fuzzy.

"What he showed in the presentation is very unlikely to be anything like a proof of the Riemann hypothesis as we know it," Jørgen Veisdal, an economist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, told Science Magazine. "It is simply too vague and unspecific."