Pierre de Fermat last theorem: Prank or math solution?

By Posted 17 Aug 2011, 09:26

You may have noticed that there is a new Google Doodle today as the search engine giant continues the trend of celebrating historic events or birthdays. This new Google Doodle is for the birthday of Pierre de Fermat, and his great Theorem is celebrated. But was Pierre de Fermat last theorem a prank or math solution?

The Doodle features a chalk board with mathematical equations and symbols, and an erased Google logo. If you hover the curser over the chalk board you get a message that reads ”I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this theorem, which this doodle is too small to contain”. If you then click on the Doodle you are taken to search results from Pierre de Fermat.

Fermat was a French lawyer but was better known for his work as an amateur mathematician. He was most famous for his last theorem where he states that no three positive integers x, y, and z can satisfy the equation xn + yn = zn where n is an integer greater than two.

He was also recognized for his work in discovering the original way of finding the greatest and smallest ordinates of curved lines. Fermat was born in Beaumont-de-Lomagne, Tarn-et-Garonne, France, and the 15th century where he was born is now a museum.

He claimed to have proved all his arithmetic theorems, but hardly any records of this have survived. This led to many other mathematicians doubting his claims, especially how difficult some of the problems were and the limited resources available to him.

It was when Fermat wrote in his personal copy of the book of Arithmetica by Diophantus that he is best known for. In the margin of the book he put “It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second, into two like powers“.

But he now claimed to have run out of writing space and finished off without any more information, and only writing “I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.” This led historians and mathematicians trying to find the “marvelous proof” to Fermat’s last theorem, and with some formulating their own.

Then hundreds of years later in 1995 a mathematician called Andrew Wiles released a 100 page paper proving Fermat’s Last Theorem. But despite this paper many historians and mathematicians are still puzzled by what Fermat was thinking, and wondered if he had a simpler proof in mind, or was it just one big prank?