from a US university have finally solved a cryptic puzzle renowned
Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed came to him in
his dreams while he was on his deathbed.
While on his death-bed in 1920, Ramanujan wrote a letter to his
mentor, British mathematician G.H. Hardy, outlining several new
mathematical functions never before heard of, along with a hunch
about how they worked, the Daily Mail reported.
Now, researchers say they have proved Ramanujan was right, and
that the formula could explain the behaviour of black holes.
"We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters," Ken
Ono, a mathematician from Emory University in Georgia, US, was
quoted as saying.
"For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been
open for 90 years," he said.
Ono said Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a village
in southern India, spent so much time thinking about math that he
flunked out of college in India twice.
Ramanujan's letter to Hardy described several new functions that
behaved differently from known theta functions, or modular forms,
and yet closely mimicked them.
Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to
him by the goddess Namagiri. However, no one at the time
understood what he was talking about.
"It wasn't until 2002, through the work of Sander Zwegers, that we
had a description of the functions that Ramanujan was writing
about in 1920," Ono told the daily.
Ono and his colleagues drew on modern mathematical tools that had
not been developed before Ramanujan's death to prove that his
theory was correct.
"We proved that Ramanujan was right. We found the formula
explaining one of the visions that he believed came from his
goddess," Ono said.
"No one was talking about black holes back in the 1920s when
Ramanujan first came up with mock modular forms, and yet, his work
may unlock secrets about them," he said.
The findings were presented in November at a Ramanujan conference
held at the University of Florida, ahead of the 125th anniversary
of the mathematician's birth Dec 22.