Lucky Numbers: Is It Wise to Bet On Mathematical Progress?
Jim Holt, LinguaFranca
To promote the release of the novel 'Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture,' the publishers are offering a 1 million dollar reward, insured by Lloyd's of London, to anyone who can prove Goldbach's conjecture -- that all even numbers are the sum of two primes -- by March 15 2002. Science writer Jim Holt ponders the wisdom of the Lloyd's underwring the bet. 'Is such a bet wise? How does one go about computing the odds of an intellectual breakthrough? Well, if Lloyd's of London is comfortable writing policies on everything from shipping accidents to (reportedly) Jennifer Lopez's derriere, there is no reason why Goldbach's conjecture should daunt them.'