Discovery behind bars – a killer math proble solve my convicted murderer in prison a complicated proof using chain fractions. His passion for math to the other inmates. Julian Rodemann0 comment chain breaks are his passion: Christopher Havens has dissolved in the Prison a complicated Mathem table Problem. Icon image

The stereotype of the mathematician as a hermit has persisted – but it has to do with the reality little. Mathematicians work in Teams and are in constant exchange with colleagues from all over the world. That isolation can still help in the solution of mathematical problems, shows the story of Christopher Havens. The 40-year-old American has been involved since 2011 in the morning until the evening of the mathematics cut off from the outside world. Havens, however, has no choice: He is in prison.

The convicted killer had dropped out of school, was a drug addict and unemployed. In jail he discovered his love for mathematics. He taught himself the basics of higher mathematics. It was not easy for him to come to textbooks. The overseer of the prison, in the vicinity of Seattle, the book shipments began in the first place. It was not until the Havens agreed to give the other inmates a lesson in mathematics, he got his books. The guards allowed him even a small library.

at some point, however, sufficed Havens, the textbooks no longer. He wrote on mathematics-professors and asked them to editions of the Annals of Mathematics is one of the most prestigious journals of mathematics. Havens knobelte referred to a Problem from number theory, Carl Friedrich Gauss once called the “Queen of mathematics”. In number theory to representations and properties of whole Numbers that are familiar to every child, and give up so many puzzles.

Havens, firmly bite on the so-called chain breaks. The ancient mathematician Euclid knew that real Numbers such as the circle number Pi can be represented using integers in the Form of chain breaks. A continued fraction is a fraction in which the denominator of a fraction is the denominator of a fraction, and so on, to infinity. The fractions are concatenated together. Mathematicians use the chain breaks, for example, the results of complicated calculations to approximate. Havens had discovered Similarities in the case of several such approximations.

His mathematical letter to friends mediated the contact to Umberto Cerruti, a Professor of mathematics in Turin. Initially skeptical, this Havens a task. A little later the Professor received a 120-centimeter-long piece of paper with haven’s response. Cerruti had to check with the Computer, whether the prisoner had solved the problem. And actually – Havens had cracked the nut. Cerruti helped Havens, to prove his guess about chain breaks. A few months ago, finally published, together with the proof in the Journal of Research in Number Theory.

The prisoner, with a penchant for Pi

at the time, Havens is the other inmates long ago with his passion for Numbers. 14. March 2017, he celebrated with 14 other prisoners for the first time, the “Pi day”. 14. March is abbreviated in English as 3/14, which are the first Figures of the decimal representation of the circular number Pi. Also Umberto Cerruti took part – under strict safety regulations. Particularly have impressed him a prisoner, would recite the first 461 digits of Pi by heart, writes the Professor in Math Horizons. Whether he’s working with this occupant of a mathematical Problem is not known.

Christopher Havens, however, is not the first convict who has made behind bars mathematical discoveries. Finally, you need neither a lab nor a Computer, for doing mathematics – a pencil, enough paper, and imagination enough. In the 19th century. Century, the French mathematician Évariste Galois spent nine months in prison, because he had participated as a staunch Republican in a Demonstration against the monarchy. The it is named after Galois group of mathematicians until today.

Like many of his discoveries of Galois, who died at the age of only 20 years, in fact in captivity has not yet been clarified conclusively. Different in the case of André Weil: The eminent number theorist came in 1940 to prison because he had refused in the French army. There is the proof of a special succeeded if the Riemann hypothesis, his most important work. In April 1940, he wrote to his wife: “If I can only work in the jail as well, should I let me from now on, two or three months of the year to lock away.”