23 mathematical challenges

A one-day symposium of physicists and mathematicians to write down a list of the 23 most important mathematical challenges of our time.

While working at Bell Labs, information theory pioneer Richard Hamming asked his colleagues to name the most important problems in their fields. Later, he asked them what they were actually working on. To his surprise, the two sets of answers didn’t overlap. Yet as he pointed out, “If you don’t work on important problems, it’s unlikely you’ll do important work.” To encourage scientists to work on the biggest challenges, Britain has launched the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. Its aim is to support work on radical new theories and technologies that don’t just solve the pressing problems of our time, but bypass them altogether.

To mark the launch of ARIA, researchers at the London Institute meet for a one-day symposium to figure out the most important mathematical challenges of our time. Inspired by David Hilbert’s influential list of problems from 1900, the number of challenges is limited to 23. As well as a potential road map for ARIA, our list is a reminder to the scientific community to aim high. The symposium takes place on the birthday of the founder of the Royal Institution, Lord Rumsford.

London Institute Symposia

London Institute Symposia are small research and technology conferences for up to 40 people that take place in the Institute. Symposia can last from a few hours to a few days, with attendees ranging from academic researchers to industry practitioners to the defence community.

23 mathematical challenges