Maggie McKee in New Scientist:
A number puzzle originating in the work of self-taught maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan nearly a century ago has been solved. The solution may one day lead to advances in particle physics and computer security.
Karl Mahlburg, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, US, has spent a year putting together the final pieces to the puzzle, which involves understanding patterns of numbers.
“I have filled notebook upon notebook with calculations and equations,” says Mahlburg, who has submitted a 10-page paper of his results to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The patterns were first discovered by Ramanujan, who was born in India in 1887 and flunked out of college after just a year because he neglected his studies in subjects outside of mathematics…
Ramanujan noticed that whole numbers can be broken into sums of smaller numbers, called partitions. The number 4, for example, contains five partitions: 4, 3+1, 2+2, 1+1+2, and 1+1+1+1…