Date: May 24, 2013 4:18 PM
Author: Sam Wormley
Subject: An Unheralded Breakthrough: The Rosetta Stone of Mathematics
An Unheralded Breakthrough: The Rosetta Stone of Mathematics

> http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/05/21/an-unheralded-breakthrough-the-rosetta-stone-of-mathematics/

> Deligne?s most spectacular results are on the interface of two areas

> of mathematics: number theory and geometry. At first glance, the two

> subjects appear to be light-years apart. As the name suggests, number

> theory is the study of numbers, such as the familiar natural numbers

> (1, 2, 3, and so on) and fractions, or more exotic ones, such as the

> square root of two. Geometry, on the other hand, studies shapes, such

> as the sphere or the surface of a donut. But French mathematician

> AndrĂ© Weil had a penetrating insight that the two subjects are in

> fact closely related. In 1940, while Weil was imprisoned for refusing

> to serve in the army during World War II, he sent a letter to his

> sister Simone Weil, a noted philosopher, in which he articulated his

> vision of a mathematical Rosetta stone. Weil suggested that sentences

> written in the language of number theory could be translated into the

> language of geometry, and vice versa. ?Nothing is more fertile than

> these illicit liaisons,? he wrote to his sister about the unexpected

> links he uncovered between the two subjects; ?nothing gives more

> pleasure to the connoisseur.? And the key to his groundbreaking idea

> was something we encounter everyday when we look at the clock.