Team Cracks Decades-Old Math Puzzle

Palo Alto, Calif. (AP) -- The head of the American Institute of Mathematics calls it a math version of climbing Mount Everest.

Until Monday, some considered it impossible to solve. A team of 18 mathematicians and computer scientists gathered in Palo Alto, California, recently and mapped a proof to a 120-year-old mathematical problem known as the "Lie (pronounced "lee") Group E-8."

Lie Groups were invented by 19th-century Norwegian Mathematician Sophus Lie in his study of spheres and differential calculus. This particular problem dates back to 1887; it features 248 dimensions.

The proof unveiled at MIT on Monday is packed with enough information to cover Manhattan. It involves about 60 times as much data as the Human Genome Project. If stored on a computer hard drive, the solution takes up as much space as 45 days of continuous music in an mp3 file.

Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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