ABSW member Tim Revell reports back on Abel Prize scholarship
Earlier this year the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters wrote to the ABSW to offer a travel scholarship to a British science journalist to visit Oslo for the Abel Prize. After calling for applications to from our members, ABSW member Tim Revell was selected and awarded the scholarship.
Tim had a great experience, made many new contacts, and whilst in Oslo produced a radio piece for the Naked Scientists, which was broadcast on BBC 5Live, Talk Radio Europe, and on RN in Australia, NZ, and South Africa, as well as being downloadable as a podcast here:
Here is Tim's report:
On 24th May Sir Andrew Wiles was awarded the Abel Prize for "his stunning proof of Fermat's Last Theorem”, and thanks to a scholarship from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, I was able to attend the ceremony.
The story begins 350 years ago, when French mathematician Pierre de Fermat was working through his favourite maths book. He came across a problem that made him start to thinking about square numbers and how to split them up. For example, 25 is a square number because it is 5 × 5. But 25 can also be split up into to two smaller square numbers, 16, which is 4 squared, and 9 which is 3 squared, that when added together give back 25.
52 = 42 + 32
Carrying on this thought, Fermat wondered if cube numbers could be split into two cubes, or fourth powers split into two other fourth powers, but he could never find an example. Instead he declared that for any power higher than squares this type of number split was impossible.
Fermat’s Last Theorem
zn ≠ yn + xn, for n ≥ 3
But then Fermat died. His proof was never found and over the years proved pretty difficult to reconstruct. It took over three centuries and thousands of different attempts, but in 1994 after working in complete solitude for seven years, Wiles was able to finally prove the theorem.
Since then Wiles has become probably the world’s most famous (living) mathematician. He’s won all sorts of prizes for his work and now he has an Abel prize, along with a £500k cheque, for his trophy cabinet as well.
Sir Andrew Wiles' story has been a source of inspiration for many mathematicians including myself and so getting the opportunity to meet him at the ceremony was a boyhood dream fulfilled. Whilst in Oslo I was able to interview Wiles for a Naked Scientists radio piece, which you can listen to here: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/interviews/interview/1001867/
For further opportunities for ABSW members do ensure you sign up to ABSW-L (our google group - email discussion group) as this is the first place that we announce jobs/scholarships and other opportunities to our members.