Putting math problems in proper order
New tool for research mathematics on the
150th anniversary of the Riemann Hypothesis.
November 17, 2009.
Mathematics is driven by the quest to solve problems
and today the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) announces a new
tool to help attack those questions.
Research problems can take decades or centuries to answer,
with partial solutions
spawning new problems along the way. Keeping track of all the problems
is difficult, even for experts. Sometimes the solution needs an idea
from another field, and it can take a long time for someone to notice
To help address these challenges
AIM has developed
the AIM Problem Lists.
"Old problems need new ideas and the AIM problem lists open up
the world of mathematics to a broader audience,"
said AIM director Brian Conrey.
The problem lists will provide clear statements of problems in the context
of related research problems along with expert commentary on possible
approaches to a solution. Each problem list provides a snapshot of
a specialized area of research.
All versions of the problem lists
will be permanently archived through the Harvard IQSS Dataverse
Network. "The record of changes to a problem list will provide
a moving picture of progress in mathematics research," said
Micah Altman, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard's
Institute for Quantitative Social Science. These records will
allow historians to track developments in a way that previously
has not been possible.
The release date for the Problem List tool coincides with the worldwide celebration
"RH Day" to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Riemann Hypothesis --
the most important unsolved problem in mathematics. One of the new
problem lists concerns problems related to the Riemann Hypothesis.
The RH Day celebration will feature more than 50 lectures at 35 locations in
The problem lists are designed to grow and change indefinitely,
while maintaining a continuity among the different versions.
Problems are assigned permanent numbers and permanent web addresses,
which will be of significant benefit to the research literature
and to online scholarly ventures. The problem lists will
be open to editing by anyone, but with an approval system and
oversight by expert editors that provide a guarantee of scholarly integrity.
Development of the problem list tool was made possible by the
National Science Foundation CDI grant
"Bibliographic Knowledge Network (BKN)," award number DMS0835851.
The software running the problem lists will be released open source.
The problem list tool was designed by David Farmer in
collaboration with BKN team members Micah Altman and Nitin Borwankar.
Frequently asked questions
What is a problem list?
A problem list is an organized and annotated collection of
unsolved problems, and previously unsolved problems,
in a specialized area of mathematics
research. The problem list provides a snapshot of the current state
of research in a particular research area, allowing experts to
keep track of new developments, and newcomers to gain a perspective
on the subject.
Wouldn't it be easier to just use a wiki?
Wikis were considered as an option for this project.
It was determined to be preferable to create a new system than to adapt
a wiki to the project's needs for long-term continuity of the problem lists
and a multi-layered editing process.
Can I contribute to a problem list?
Anyone can add a remark on a problem, either anonymously
or by signing up for a free account.
Within the next two weeks, a new feature will be enabled that
allows anyone to contribute new problems to a list.
All contributions are reviewed before appearing in the
publicly viewable version of the problem list.
Experts in a particular area can be granted permission
to bypass this requirement.
Can I propose a new problem list?
Initial efforts will focus on converting existing problem lists
to this new easy to maintain format. If you are already the maintainer
of a problem list and wish to use this new tool,
please contact David Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I use the problem list tool to create other kinds of documents?
The problem list tool is designed for the special structure of a
problem list. The BKN project is developing other specialized tools,
such as one for maintaining annotated bibliographies that is due for
release in Spring 2010.
The BKN Project is also developing a general standard for managing
structured text, called BibJSON
which should serve as a foundation for developing more general tools.
For more information: