Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press
"Number Crunch: A Group of Mathematicians is Trying to Cut the World's Lengthiest Theorem Down to Size," by Kim McDonald. Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 June 1996, page A8.
The notion of a group is central to mathematics. In addition to providing a way to represent mathematically the symmetries of objects such as crystals, exploring the structure of groups has an inherent mathematical fascination. The proof of the "Enormous Theorem," completed in 1980, is a patchwork of results that established a classification of an important collection of groups: the finite simple groups. Like the Scientific American piece on this topic (see The Not So Enormous Theorem), this article describes current efforts by mathematicians to condense, correct, and complete the proof and publish it in a projected 12-volume set. The present article provides a little more detail about what groups are and why the theorem is significant.