Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Rabbit Hole

I read this earlier today: A Mexican Physicist Solved a 2,000-Year Old Problem That Will Lead to Cheaper, Sharper Lenses. Here's an excerpt:
It’s a problem that plagues even the priciest of lenses, manufactured to the most exacting specifications: the center of the frame might be razor-sharp, but the corners and edges always look a little soft. It’s a problem that’s existed for thousands of years with optical devices, and one that was assumed to be unsolvable...

But that’s all going to change thanks to Rafael G. González-Acuña, a doctoral student at Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey. After months of work, he managed to come up with a mind-melting equation that provides an analytical solution for counteracting spherical aberration, which had been previously formulated back in 1949 as the Wasserman-Wolf problem which stumped scientists for decades.

If you take a look at his formula, "mind-melting" is not an exaggeration.

This made me curious about what other 2,000-year old problems remain unsolved. As far as I can tell, there aren't many.

However, I did stumble onto Hilbert's problems (great name for a band, of course), which were published in 1900 by mathematician David Hilbert. There were twenty-three of them, all unsolved, and remarkably, one hundred and nineteen years later, only eight have been fully resolved.

These aren't unsolved anymore, but it did take a very long time: 2000 years unsolved: Why is doubling cubes and squaring circles impossible?

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