It has taken 120 years but the worlds best mathematicians and computer scientists have mapped out a 248-dimension mathematical structure, knows as E8. Solving E8 is seen as a major step in the study of symmetry, a mathematical field important to our understanding of the origins of the universe. (Image: John Stembridge, based on a drawing by Peter McMullen)
The calculation of the structure takes about 60 gigabytes of space on a computer, or enough space to hold about 15,000 songs in MP3 format. It took 18 researchers from the United States and Europe four years to produce the E8 calculation and 77 hours for a U.S. supercomputer called Sage 77 to provide the solution
E8 is the most complex Lie group known, a 453,060 by 453,060 matrix that exists only in abstract mathematics. Because of its large size, solving its structure was not possible until computing power could improve, according to Jeffrey Adams, the project leader and a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland.
“E8 was discovered over a century ago, in 1887, and until now, no one thought the structure could ever be understood,” said Adams in a statement. “This groundbreaking achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge, as well as a major advance in the use of large-scale computing to solve complicated mathematical problems.”