It’s about being ambitious and daring to be different. I interviewed the man who intends to solve the Riemann hypothesis, using quasi-crystals. I already wrote about it here and I strongly suggest that you go through that article before reading the interview.
In the interview, I ask him about his method of attack and his methodology of recruiting people for the expedition. He openly says that the journey is just starting. We end it with a light-hearted chat about his Twitter moniker and his email ID.
Here’s the full interview:
Me: Kindly say a bit about yourself. I know that you conducted a neutrino workshop a few days ago. Are you a mathematician interested in physics or a physicist interested in mathematics?
Rohit Gupta: Yeah, the workshop I conducted on neutrinos was about 2 months prior to the OPERA results going online. I was pretty sure that neutrinos were the ‘ghost’ in the standard model, and well – now everyone is talking about it.
About me, let’s just say that I am a cosmologist who is interested in connections between physics and number theory. My educational background is Chemical Engineering ( IIT Kharagpur, class of 99) and after that I have been mostly self-taught and self-employed.
Me: Cool! Yeah, I can’t resist the temptation. Just one more off-the-track question before the real questions. What’s your take on the faster-than-light neutrino results?
RG: I’m no experimental physicist, but even if you read the literature on the original neutrino experiments like Homestake or the SN1987 at Kamiokande, we are dealing with a jaw-dropping piece of work purely in statistical terms. OPERA is no more controversial than solar neutrinos were for about 30 years.
It is too early to take sides, but personally I will try to study the work of Ettore Majorana. That sounds promising. I don’t know it too well, though.
Me: Okay. First of the serious questions. You mentioned Erbium in your blog. You said that the energy levels would correspond to the pattern of zeros of the Riemann zeta function. Given that Erbium is large atom and cannot be solved exactly, how can you precisely know the energy levels? The zeros of Riemann Zeta are definitely well-defined and precise.
RG: I am not going by the experimental data Dyson is referring to, I am going after the idea itself. That has little to do with Erbium, that has to do with quasicrystals and the Riemann-Zeta. And Dyson is not my only inspiration, there are other lesser known papers, there’s one by Akio Sugamoto which models “factorization of integers into prime numbers viewed as decay of a particle into elementary particles conserving energy”. I think that is what excites me, that there is something corporeal behind numbers, a physical connection.
Me: And that precisely brings me to the next question.
I am curious about the quasi-crystal strategy you intend to employ. You mention that ” if the Riemann Hypothesis is true, then the zeroes of the zeta function form a quasicrystal”. Do you intend to ‘make’ a quasicrystal in 1-D and match it with the zeros of the R-Z function? Is a 1-D quasicrystal unique?
Further, can you be sure of the generality of the result? I mean, you cannot possibly compare all the zeros, right? How do you that the R-Z function follows the quasi-crystal to Re(s)->infinity?
Also, I’m quite surprised to think that this hasn’t been tried by someone else, especially when someone like Freeman Dyson had suggested it.
RG: There are gaps in the theory because quasicrystal theory is very new. What Dyson suggests as a first target is to classify quasicrystals in 1-D, a well-known example being the Fibonacci sequence. There are many such sequences and a classification of these requires a new metric. Once we have the metric, we find the one that corresponds to the Riemann Zeta. So yeah, I intend to make such a quasicrystal in 1D. Because the quasicrystal has a precise artificial structure, we can know for sure it corresponds to infinity.
I’m pretty surprised too that this hasn’t been given a serious attempt, and probably very lucky in that aspect.
Me: I have an objection there:
You say: Because the quasicrystal has a precise artificial structure, we can know for sure it corresponds to infinity.How do you know that the two follow each other till infinity? A trillion zeros have been found and all follow the Riemann hypothesis, but the jury’s still out because a generic proof has not been found. How are you so sure of the exact correspondence?
RG: I’d be able to answer that only once I have the structure of such a sequence. Only then can we say that it is a logical equivalent to (and implies) the Riemann Hypothesis. We haven’t even begun the actual expedition, we merely have a conjecture and a chance to fail heroically.
Me: Great! Let me now move from the method to the methodology.
You’re trying to recruit people for this expedition. I don’t understand how recruiting people not specializing in this will help. Do you really think they can contribute? You mention about teaching them the definition of ‘primes’. If that is the case, then what hope is there for the actual solution to the problem?
RG: My friend Edmund Harriss is a mathematician who has extensive experience with quasicrystals. You can see his opinion on the project here: http://maxwelldemon.com/tag/riemann-hypothesis/. There are more artists, designers and of course mathematicians who are slowly joining this. I welcome everyone.
I am asking people to share the journey with each other and learn a lot in the process by playing with it once I have explained it in a layman terms, the first three months is for that. Then there is a live GoogleDoc which the public can view ( but only the members can edit ) This public document will start from the basics and lead up to our attempt at solving the Riemann Hypothesis.
There are a few outcomes possible 1) The hypothesis is not provable 2) it is provable 3) it is not possible to know whether it is provable or not and 4) the proof exists but is too long by human standards. What then? That is an open question for future generations and only collaborative activity can resolve this.
Me: What do you think the consequences of the solution might be? Except for you getting immensely famous and obscenely rich, that is.
RG: HAHAHA…I hope so my friend, I’m tired of having to charge a fee for my workshops. But that aside, the longest existing proof is currently the “classification of finite simple groups” and that is tens of thousand of pages in hundreds of journals. I imagine that if we realize that a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis exists, but no single human being or even several generations can never read the one million, trillion or even more pages needed to verify it, we will have to create an entirely new system of collaboration in human society.
Me: Yes, the Enormous group classification proof is really enormous. Let’s end with something light-hearted.
I’m quite curious about your Twitter moniker, your Gmail ID and your blog name. What’s this fascination with the word ‘Fade’?
RG: I once wrote a comic book called the Doppler Effect, where the protagonist is a creature called the Fadereu, who is only visible when he moves, or else he fades away in the air. It was my nickname for a long time, but when I got bored I kept changing it with my age. It’s here:
Me: That is cool!
Let me end with a bit of self-appreciation, if you allow. I have to thank you for making the link from our website your GTalk chat status. Any comments?
RG: Well, it helps the project to showcase what people are writing about it. I assure you this is all entirely in my own interest!
Me: Thanks a million for the interview.
RG: Thank you so much for your time and interest, and do let me know if you’re joining us.