The Simple Math Problem We Still Can’t Solve — Quanta Magazine
My latest column for Quanta Magazine explores a simple math problem that no one should try to solve. Even though everyone has probably tried to!
This column comes with a warning: Do not try to solve this math problem.
You will be tempted. This problem is simply stated, easily understood, and all too inviting. Just pick a number, any number: If the number is even, cut it in half; if it’s odd, triple it and add 1. Take that new number and repeat the process, again and again. If you keep this up, you’ll eventually get stuck in a loop. At least, that’s what we think will happen.
The infamous Collatz conjecture has been capturing the attention of mathematicians and recreational problem solvers since it was first introduced in 1937. It seems so simple, yet no one has been able to prove it. Recent progress has been made, however, by none other than Terry Tao, one of the world’s great mathematicians.
You can learn more about Collatz conjecture in my column. Just don’t try to solve it! You’ve been warned.