Flawed solution to famed math problem spurs cyber soap opera

Stephen Ornes in Seed Magazine:

Math_article_1It all started when a mathematician tackled one of math’s most enduring open problems—one that happened to be worth $1 million—in a paper she posted online. The journal Nature quickly published a story on its web site; news of a great mathematical breakthrough began to spread.

But less than two weeks after she posted the paper, the author learned that she had made an error and withdrew her work. In another era—as recently as, say, 10 years ago—that would have been the end of the story…

Oh, but times have changed. In the world of instant communication and public access to sophisticated research, this small story blossomed into a veritable cyber-drama. The narrative at “Not Even Wrong,” Woit’s blog, escalated quickly. Within a week, it had become a revealing chronicle of scientific hope, human disappointment, and the perils of undertaking the often messy enterprises of science and math in the age of the blog.

More here.