This Guy Just Won $720,000 for Solving a 300-Year Old Math Problem You Don’t Understand.

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For more than 300 years, this simple math problem has confounded mathematicians worldwide. And now Andrew Wiles has won $720,000 for solving the equation.

Known as Fermat’s Last Theorem, it seems simple enough = xⁿ + yⁿ = zⁿ but the equation has no solutions if ⁿ>3. Yet the equation has confounded the world until Wiles came along.

His work earned him the Abel Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of Math.

According to Wikipedia:

In number theory, Fermat’s Last Theorem (sometimes called Fermat’s conjecture, especially in older texts) states that no three positive integers a, b, and c satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n strictly greater than two. The cases n = 1 and n = 2 have been known to have infinitely many solutions since antiquity.[1]

This theorem was first conjectured by Pierre de Fermat in 1637 in the margin of a copy of Arithmetica where he claimed he had a proof that was too large to fit in the margin. The first successful proof was released in 1994 by Andrew Wiles, and formally published in 1995, after 358 years of effort by mathematicians. The unsolved problem stimulated the development of algebraic number theory in the 19th century and the proof of the modularity theorem in the 20th century. It is among the most notable theorems in the history of mathematics and prior to its proof, it was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most difficult mathematical problem”, one of the reasons being that it has the largest number of unsuccessful proofs.[2]