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The Un(solv)able Problem

Cubitt, TS; Perez-Garcia, D; Wolf, M; (2018) The Un(solv)able Problem. Scientific American , 319 (4) pp. 29-37. 10.1038/scientificamerican1018-28. Green open access

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Abstract

After a years-long intellectual journey, three mathematicians have discovered that a problem of central importance in physics is impossible to solve—and that means other big questions may be undecidable, too. In Brief: Kurt Gödel famously discovered in the 1930s that some statements are impossible to prove true or false—they will always be “undecidable.” Mathematicians recently set out to discover whether a certain fundamental problem in quantum physics—the so-called spectral gap question—falls into this category. The spectral gap refers to the energy difference between the lowest energy state a material can occupy and the next state up. After three years of blackboard brainstorming, midnight calculating and much theorizing over coffee, the mathematicians produced a 146-page proof that the spectral gap problem is, in fact, undecidable. The result raises the possibility that other important questions may likewise be unanswerable.

Type: Article
Title: The Un(solv)able Problem
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1018-28
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican1018-28
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10062946
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