"Beautiful Mind" mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., who was killed in a car crash with his wife last weekend, told a colleague in the days before his death that he had a replacement equation for Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
"He explained it to me," award-winning mathematician Cedric Villani told The Times of London.
"He thought he had discovered a replacement for the equation."
Nash's struggle with schizophrenia was detailed in the Russell Crowe movie "A Beautiful Mind" in 2001. Villani says just three days before Nash's death his famous colleague had told him about his work on Einstein's theory.
Nash, 86, had been in Norway to claim a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and letters in Oslo in the days before the fatal taxi cab accident in New Jersey that killed him and his wife, Alicia, 82, reports The Daily Mail.
A colleague said the Nashes had just flown home and were killed after taking a cab from the airport.
Villani told The Times that Nash believed his replacement theory would further explain quantum gravity and expand on Einstein's theory of relativity, which was published in the early 20th century and explains how what is perceived as gravity comes from the curvature of space and time.
Nash had been affiliated with Princeton University for decades, and was still working as a senior research mathematician at the time of his death. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for his work in game theory and how it influences human rivalry.
Nash was also a recipient of the John von Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 and the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize for a Seminal Contribution to Research in 1999.
Villani told The New York Daily News
that there was nothing secret about Nash's equation. Further, he said, Nash had been working on the modified equation for general relativity for decades. even discussing his ideas with Einstein himself in the 1950s in a conversation that was "not productive."
Villani said there are discrepancies between Einstein's theory, devised in 1916, and other areas of physics.
"We know that the theory of relativity works extraordinarily well to describe certain things, like the trajectory of Mercury," Villani said. "But there are still mysteries in the field."
Villani told The Daily News that Nash wanted to change the measure for the rate of change of space and time, which he likened to plugging in a different value in the same equation.
Villani said that the proposed equation might bring different predictions, and that Einstein himself had said that "no theory ever in physics is sure to stay eternally true."
But more research is needed to determine if Nash's theory is better, said Villani, who noted that there are cosmologists who say it is not a good equation.
"It might be just something that has no consequence and no interest while what Nash did during his life was totally amazing and little talked about," Villani told The Daily News.
New York University Prof. Louis Nirenberg, who was in Norway with Nash to accept the prestigious 2015 Abel Prize for their work with nonlinear partial differential equations, said in a press release that he considered Nash a genius.
"About twenty years ago somebody asked me, 'Were there any mathematicians you would consider as geniuses?'" Nirenberg said, according a press release. "I said, 'I can think of one, and that's John Nash.'… He had a remarkable mind. He thought about things differently from other people."
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