New math theorem receives $3M prize

A mathematician from the University of Chicago called Alex Eskin has been awarded a three million dollar prize for the discovery of a new math theorem – the ‘Magic Wand Theorem’.

The award was given as part of the annual Breakthrough Prizes, which were initiated in 2013 by a collective of tech giants and multi-millionaires. There are several prizes awarded each year for the fields of mathematics, physics, and fundamental life sciences. 

Mr. Eskin’s award-winning paper on Abelian differentials was developed as a joint effort with Maryam Mirzakhani, a renowned mathematician from Stanford University. 

Ms. Mirzakhani was the first-ever female mathematician to achieve the most important recognition in the field – the Fields Medal, which is awarded once every four years to aspiring scientists under the age of forty (40) years.

What is the importance of new math theorems?

Mr. Eskin’s new math theorem might sound like something that only scholars would use, but this is not actually the case. According to Mr. Eskin, the name of the theorem –  the ‘Magic Wand Theorem’ – is actually a reference to its usefulness, rather than a tribute to the relationship with a physical object.

In order to explain his findings to non-mathematicians, and even to some of his Ph.D. students, Mr. Eskin used the example of a room made of mirrors. He said that if you place mirrors instead of the walls of a room, at angles that represent ratios of whole numbers, and put a candle in the middle of the room, there will be no dark spots left in the space.

In essence, this is a practical example of how the new math theorem works. While Mr. Eskin explains his findings with ease, he mentions that many of his graduate students and colleagues had difficulty grasping the new theorem. According to him, the confusion is caused by the numerous calculations that need to be performed, which can take hours.

Science competitions

Science competitions are happening all over the world, however, only the most prominent mathematicians, physicists, and scholars manage to reach the top.

In order to boost the interest of children for the scientific field, and to make it possible for young talent to reach the heights that Mr. Eskin has reached, an Australian competition – Origin’s littleBIGidea, is awarding a trip to the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters.