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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Today's Big Idea: Number Theory

The Big Idea for Thursday, September 13, 2012

Math is all around us, and our ability to access and understand numbers is more important than ever before. And yet, the world of high-level mathematics is almost completely inaccessible to the average person, and this was very much in evidence in recent weeks as we in the media have been struggling to understand the significance of possibly the greatest mathematical breakthrough of the 21st century. 

Shinichi Mochizuki, a professor at the Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Kyoto University, released a 500-page proof of the abc conjecture in number theory which involves the relationship between prime numbers. If verified, Mochizuki has solved the "holy grail" of mathematics as the abc conjecture forms the basis of many other conjectures. 

What we have tried to do in today's lesson is at least tried to unpack how Mochizuki did it. His way of thinking, after all, is fundamental to our ability to problem-solve in many different fields. What Mochizuki unpacked was the logic behind a pattern, one of the core skills necessary for success in the 21st century. 


  1. 1 Roll Over, Pythagoras: the "Holy Grail" of Math May Have Been Found
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 Blending Math With Beauty
    Benoit Mandelbrot
  3. 3 How Ballet Is Like Math
    Catherine Asaro
  4. 4 Forget Big Data. What your business needs is Dynamic Data
    Dimitri Maex Experts' Corner

Today's Big Idea: Number Th...

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