Srinivasa Ramanujan is a name that has come to be synonymous with mathematics. Born in 1887 in the erstwhile Madras Presidency, this self-taught math wizard had no formal training in pure mathematics but went on to make substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, and continued fractions.
Unfortunately, he did not receive much recognition during his lifetime, and it was only after his death that his work and contributions started getting the accolades and appreciation they deserved.
In his thirty-two years of existence, he independently compiled almost 3,900 identities and equations. That says it all about the passion Ramanujan felt towards the subject.
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It is therefore not surprising when he is referred to as one of the most prominent and path-breaking mathematicians of the 20th century. In an ode to this great mind, researchers from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed a concept, which they aptly describe as a ‘Ramanujan machine’—an algorithm that automatically generates conjectures for fundamental constants.
So, what does this algorithm do?
When you input a problem in most computer programs you expect the algorithm to come up with a solution. But the Ramanujan Machine does the opposite. If you input a constant, like pi, then the algorithm will give you an equation which would involve an infinite series but its value, it would propose to be exactly pi. It is now for us to prove that the given equation is correct.
One of the reasons why this is such a breakthrough is because conjectures are a major step in the process of making new discoveries in any branch of science, particularly mathematics, and this machine takes us one step closer to such discoveries. The idea behind this algorithm is to ensure that process of discovery is accelerated.
With absolutely no formal training, it is indeed surprising that Ramanujan came up with such complex algorithms. In fact it is because of his unique and novel way of presenting equations and identities, which includes equations leading to the value of pi, that the machine has been named after him.
Why is this a good thing?
The team that has worked on creating this ‘machine’ is optimistic of inspiring future generations of mathematicians. The researchers also note that their ‘machine’ has already discovered dozens of new conjectures. The purpose of the machine is to come up with conjectures in the form of mathematical formulas that we can analyse, and hopefully prove to be true mathematically.
This is meant to serve as a stepping stone for various other discoveries.
Furthermore, the website also keeps the users engaged since they can suggest proofs for algorithms or propose new algorithms, which will be named after them.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)