Beal Conjecture Solution Worth $1M to Math-Loving Banker

Image: Beal Conjecture Solution Worth $1M to Math-Loving Banker D. Andrew "Andy" Beal

Friday, 07 Jun 2013 10:32 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A Dallas banker is offering $1 million to anyone who can find a solution to the Beal Conjecture number theory, a problem that has eluded mathematicians since the 1980s.

D. Andrew Beal, a self-taught mathematician who founded the Beal Prize in 1997 to incentivize math for young people, has upped the initial $5,000 prize over the years. The reward is now $1 million for anyone who can either solve the Beal Conjecture or offer a counterexample. There's just one stipulation to the reward: The solution must be published in a mathematics journal to be eligible.

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The funds are held in trust by the Providence, R.I.,-based American Mathematical Society. Here's how the AMS explains the problem:

"The Beal Conjecture states that the only solutions to the equation Ax + By = Cz, when A, B, C, are positive integers, and x, y, and z are positive integers greater than 2, are those in which A, B, and C have a common factor. By way of example, 33 + 63 = 35, but the numbers that are the bases have a common factor of 3, so the equation does not disprove the theorem; it is not a counterexample."

Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin, said if a solution to the Beal Conjecture is indeed found, it would revolutionize the world of math.

"Any solution to this problem would signal a real new idea and not minor progress," he told ABCNews.com.

Beal, whose net worth is somewhere in the $8 billion range, is hopeful the new seven-figure prize will serve as an incentive for young people to study math.

"I'd like to inspire young people to pursue math and science," Beal said in a statement this week. "Increasing the prize is a good way to draw attention to mathematics generally… I hope many more young people will find themselves drawn into the wonderful world of mathematics."

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