Kenya

Does a perfect odd number exist? JKUAT student says he has solved a global riddle

Does a perfect odd number exist? JKUAT student says he has solved a global riddle

Tony Kuria Kimani, 29, a Master’s student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who bought space in the ‘Saturday Nation’  to publish a mathematical calculation.

Photo credit: Pool

A Master’s student was yesterday (December 18, 2021) the talk of town after paying for newspaper space to publish a mathematical solution.

Tony Kuria Kimani, who is studying research methods for his Master’s degree at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), used the quarter-page advert to respond to a question he said has been troubling mathematicians for ages: Does a perfect odd number exist?

An odd number is one that can’t be divided into two equal whole numbers, like 3 or 5. And a perfect number is one which equals the sum of its divisors. An example is six. Its divisors are 1, 2, and 3. If you add 1 and 2 and 3, you get six. Twenty-eight is another perfect number because its divisors, 1, 2, 4, 7 and 14, add up to it.

So, mathematicians have been wondering: is there an odd number that is also perfect?

Kuria told the Sunday Nation that he has been following the debate and researching about it.

“It is an open question but it’s also a big one. And it’s very old. I don’t know how many, but it’s many centuries old,” he said.

The solution he published yesterday, he said, is what he thinks will prove once and for all that there is no odd number whose divisors add up to it.

His advertisement was unique because of the use of abstract symbols and calculations that left many wondering what was even going on.

Kuria said yesterday that what was published was just a small extract of a longer article he has done on the topic. He decided to run it as an advertisement to protect his claim to it.

“When I was doing my own research privately, I found a solution and I took many months to just go through it and see whether it’s okay. When finally I decided that everything was okay, I decided to publish,” he said.

“I was afraid that the idea would be stolen by someone out there or something like that. But if I publish it in the newspaper, I get something called priority. I get the claim for that idea, because the newspaper has a date and my name is there. Now that I have the priority, I can take it to a research journal. It takes up to one year to publish; sometimes even two years. But once everybody knows that I am the one who came up with the idea, I can just do it, even if it takes a year before they publish.”

He went on: “I included my ID number because, you know, there could be another Tony Kuria. I put it there so that it identifies me.”

He convinced his mother to pay for the advertisement.

“Even though she doesn’t understand the mathematics, she supports me anyway,” he said.

Kuria studied business and economics for his undergraduate degree. The calculations he has been doing are not related to his coursework but he says he is a mathematics fanatic — having scored a straight A in Standard Eight and Form Four examinations.

He welcomed mathematicians in Kenya and all over the world to work out his formula and see if he has successfully proven it.

“I cannot say I’ve proven it. What we can say is that I have presented something like a proposal. And scholars in the field, mathematicians not just in Kenya but everywhere, can now look at my work. And then they will decide if it’s correct or not,” he said.

“I believe I’ve proven it, but it’s not for me to decide,” added Kuria.