Carol Clark at the Emory University blog eScienceCommons:
On the surface, partition numbers seem like mathematical child’s play. A partition of a number is a sequence of positive integers that add up to that number. For example, 4 = 3+1 = 2+2 = 2+1+1 = 1+1+1+1. So we say there are 5 partitions of the number 4.
It sounds simple, and yet the partition numbers grow at an incredible rate. The amount of partitions for the number 10 is 42. For the number 100, the partitions explode to more than 190,000,000.
“Partition numbers are a crazy sequence of integers which race rapidly off to infinity,” Ono says. “This provocative sequence evokes wonder, and has long fascinated mathematicians.”
By definition, partition numbers are tantalizingly simple. But until the breakthroughs by Ono’s team, no one was unable to unlock the secret of the complex pattern underlying this rapid growth.