The Millennium Prize Problems are seven problems in mathematics that were stated by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. The problems are Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture, Hodge conjecture, Navier–Stokes existence and smoothness, P versus NP problem, Poincaré conjecture, Riemann hypothesis, and Yang–Mills existence and mass gap. A correct solution to any of the problems results in a US $1 million prize being awarded by the institute to the discoverer(s).
At present, the only Millennium Prize problem to have been solved is the Poincaré conjecture, which was solved by the Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman in 2003.
P versus NP
The question is whether or not, for all problems for which an algorithm can verify a given solution quickly (that is, in polynomial time), an algorithm can also find that solution quickly. Since the former describes the class of problems termed NP, while the latter describes P, the question is equivalent to asking whether all problems in NP are also in P. This is generally considered one of the most important open questions in mathematics and theoretical computer science as it has far-reaching consequences to other problems in mathematics, and to biology, philosophy and cryptography (see P versus NP problem proof consequences). A common example of a P versus NP problem is the travelling salesman problem.
“ If P = NP, then the world would be a profoundly different place than we usually assume it to be. There would be no special value in ‘creative leaps’, no fundamental gap between solving a problem and recognizing the solution once it’s found. Everyone who could appreciate a symphony would be Mozart; everyone who could follow a step-by-step argument would be Gauss… ”
— Scott Aaronson, MIT
Most mathematicians and computer scientists expect that P ≠ NP.
The official statement of the problem was given by Stephen Cook.
The Hodge conjecture is that for projective algebraic varieties, Hodge cycles are rational linear combinations of algebraic cycles.
The official statement of the problem was given by Pierre Deligne.
The Riemann hypothesis is that all nontrivial zeros of the analytical continuation of the Riemann zeta function have a real part of 1/2. A proof or disproof of this would have far-reaching implications in number theory, especially for the distribution of prime numbers. This was Hilbert’s eighth problem, and is still considered an important open problem a century later.
The official statement of the problem was given by Enrico Bombieri.
Yang–Mills existence and mass gap
In physics, classical Yang–Mills theory is a generalization of the Maxwell theory of electromagnetism where the chromo-electromagnetic field itself carries charges. As a classical field theory it has solutions which travel at the speed of light so that its quantum version should describe massless particles (gluons). However, the postulated phenomenon of color confinement permits only bound states of gluons, forming massive particles. This is the mass gap. Another aspect of confinement is asymptotic freedom which makes it conceivable that quantum Yang-Mills theory exists without restriction to low energy scales. The problem is to establish rigorously the existence of the quantum Yang-Mills theory and a mass gap.
The official statement of the problem was given by Arthur Jaffe and Edward Witten.
Navier–Stokes existence and smoothness
The Navier–Stokes equations describe the motion of fluids. Although they were first stated in the 19th century, they are still not well-understood. The problem is to make progress towards a mathematical theory that will give insight into these equations.
The official statement of the problem was given by Charles Fefferman.
Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture
The Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture deals with certain types of equations: those defining elliptic curves over the rational numbers. The conjecture is that there is a simple way to tell whether such equations have a finite or infinite number of rational solutions. Hilbert’s tenth problem dealt with a more general type of equation, and in that case it was proven that there is no way to decide whether a given equation even has any solutions.
The official statement of the problem was given by Andrew Wiles.