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Solution search.

In November, the American Institute of Mathematics developed what it calls the AIM problem lists, designed to help researchers track and add their expertise to unsolved math problems.

The nonprofit institute's goal is to expand mathematical frontiers via research projects. It's located in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mathematical problems can take decades, years, or even centuries to answer. And partial solutions spawn new problems along the way, according to AIM's executive director, Brian Conrey.

"Keeping track of all the problems is difficult, even for experts," he said. "Sometimes the solution needs an idea from another field, and it can take a long time for someone to notice the connection.

"Old problems need new ideas, and the AIM problem lists open up the world of mathematics to a broader audience," he added.

The list of unsolved mathematical problems--accessible via the institute's Web site, www.aimath. org--provides the problems in the context of related research. It also offers expert commentary on possible approaches to a solution and talks about how the problem applies to a specialized area of research, Conrey said. The list is also accessible at

Problems are assigned permanent numbers and are also assigned permanent Web addresses. Though the list can be edited by anyone, an approval system is in place that includes oversight by expert editors, who provide a guarantee of scholarly integrity, Conrey said.

In this way, the problem list can grow and change, but still maintain continuity, Conrey added.

All versions of the problem lists will be permanently archived through the Harvard University IQSS Dataverse Network, said Micah Altman, senior research scientist at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science. These records will allow historians to track developments in a way that previously has not been possible, he said.

"The record of changes to a problem list will provide a moving picture of progress in mathematics research," Altman said.

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Title Annotation:NEWS & NOTES
Author:Thilmany, Jean
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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