4

# A Dallas Banker's Million-Dollar Quest to Solve a Math Problem

AA

Andrew Beal isn't your typical banker. For starters, he's a lot richer. He's No. 43 on Forbes' list of the country's richest people, worth an estimated \$8.5 billion. And he's always been less interested in conspicuous displays of wealth than in things like rockets, poker strategy and mathematical theory.

His quixotic go at a private satellite company free of government support, which we detailed in a 2001 cover story, went bust. His forays into high-stakes poker, chronicled in Michael Craig's 2005 book, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King, were equally disastrous, costing him \$16 million over a particularly woeful two-day stretch. He's now hoping his flirtation with advanced mathematics will yield better results.

Beal's quest dates back to 1993, when he put forward a novel mathematical proposition:

If Ax + By = Cz, where A, B, C, x, y and z are positive integers and x, y and z are all greater than 2, then A, B and C must have a common prime factor.

It looks like something a seventh-grader might come across in algebra class, but it's far from it. The Beal Conjecture, as it's become known, is a corollary to Fermat's famed last theorem, which stumped the world's greatest mathematical minds for centuries until Andrew Wiles' 1995 proof. Beal's has only stood for two decades without a definitive proof or refutation.

That's what Beal's looking for. He put the math problem to the world, first offering \$5,000 to anyone who could prove or disprove his conjecture, then increasing the amount to \$100,000. Now, The Associated Press reports that the billionaire has upped the ante once again, this time to \$1 million.

That's a pretty sweet pot. But before you waste your time scrawling the proof on a discarded cocktail napkin and mailing it to Beal, know that the solution must be published in a "respected" peer-reviewed journal and approved by an American Mathematical Society committee.

## Trending News

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

• Top Stories
Send: