The Subtle Art of the Mathematical Conjecture

Robbert Dijkgraaf in Quanta:

Mountain climbing is a beloved metaphor for mathematical research. The comparison is almost inevitable: The frozen world, the cold thin air and the implacable harshness of mountaineering reflect the unforgiving landscape of numbers, formulas and theorems. And just as a climber pits his abilities against an unyielding object — in his case, a sheer wall of stone — a mathematician often finds herself engaged in an individual battle of the human mind against rigid logic.

In mathematics, the role of these highest peaks is played by the great conjectures — sharply formulated statements that are most likely true but for which no conclusive proof has yet been found. These conjectures have deep roots and wide ramifications. The search for their solution guides a large part of mathematics. Eternal fame awaits those who conquer them first.

More here.  [Thanks to Pramathanath Sastry.]