By TETSUYA ISHIKURA/ Staff Writer
November 22, 2021 at 07:00 JST
NTT’s research facility in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, where the Institute for Fundamental Mathematics was set up in October (Provided by NTT)
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) has set up a mathematics institute to lure any bright mind capable of taking up the challenge of solving the Riemann hypothesis or other unsolved problems in pure mathematics.
The telecommunications giant said it aims to use research results to find innovations that could change society and business in the future, including devising an “ultimate cryptosystem.”
The Institute for Fundamental Mathematics was founded inside NTT’s representation theory facility in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Oct. 1.
Masato Wakayama, professor emeritus at Kyushu University specializing in representation theory and number theory, was appointed head of the institute to lead a group of 15 or so researchers mainly in their 30s and 40s.
The hallmark of the institute is its quest to take on mathematical conundrums such as the Riemann hypothesis, which is thought to be the key to unraveling the mystery of the distribution of prime numbers. It was proposed by German mathematician Bernhard Riemann in 1859.
A U.S. mathematics institute is offering a $1 million (110 million yen) reward to anybody who can solve the problem.
“Mathematics has the power to fundamentally change the way things are viewed,” Wakayama said. “We also want to aim for big home runs.”
Mathematics is a basic foundation of science technology.
For instance, prime numbers such as 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 appear randomly. Such irregularities are used in cryptographic systems to protect classified data on credit cards and other confidential information.
Research products are expected to be used to create new and unbreakable cryptosystems even by quantum computers, elucidate unknown diseases and discover new drugs.
“Research conducted with free thinking and curiosity sometimes becomes explosively useful,” Wakayama said. “We want to create an environment where research can be carried out over the long term.”
NTT has a strong track record in research-and-development efforts for materials and devices as well as basic research in computing science leading to cryptography and other fields.
The institute expects this latest research effort to last for at least 20 years.
Overseas, major tech companies such as Alphabet Inc. providing the Google search engine service, Apple Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc., which operates the Facebook social networking service, and Amazon.com Inc., have actively recruited mathematicians to capitalize on their findings.
But it is rare for a private company to set up a research organization to recruit mathematicians to solve pure mathematical equations not directly linked to its services.
It does offer advantages.
Unlike universities, researchers are not obliged to teach students, meaning that they can concentrate on their studies.
The institute also intends to collaborate with outside researchers to become a research organization on a par with leading universities, according to NTT.
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