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Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantity, space, pattern, structure, and change. Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, and the social sciences. Applied mathematics, the branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields, inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries and sometimes leads to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. Mathematicians also engage in pure mathematics, or mathematics for its own sake, without having any application in mind. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics, and practical applications for what began as pure mathematics are often discovered.

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The real part (red) and imaginary part (blue) of the critical line Re(s) = 1/2 of the Riemann zeta-function.
Image credit: User:Army1987

The Riemann hypothesis, first formulated by Bernhard Riemann in 1859, is one of the most famous unsolved problems. It has been an open question for well over a century, despite attracting concentrated efforts from many outstanding mathematicians.

The Riemann hypothesis is a conjecture about the distribution of the zeros of the Riemann zeta-function ζ(s). The Riemann zeta-function is defined for all complex numbers s ≠ 1. It has zeros at the negative even integers (i.e. at s=-2, s=-4, s=-6, ...). These are called the trivial zeros. The Riemann hypothesis is concerned with the non-trivial zeros, and states that:

The real part of any non-trivial zero of the Riemann zeta function is ½

Thus the non-trivial zeros should lie on the so-called critical line ½ + it with t a real number and i the imaginary unit. The Riemann zeta-function along the critical line is sometimes studied in terms of the Z-function, whose real zeros correspond to the zeros of the zeta-function on the critical line.

The Riemann hypothesis is one of the most important open problems in contemporary mathematics; a $1,000,000 prize has been offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute for a proof. Most mathematicians believe the Riemann hypothesis to be true. (J. E. Littlewood and Atle Selberg have been reported as skeptical. Selberg's skepticism, if any, waned, from his young days. In a 1989 paper, he suggested that an analogue should hold for a much wider class of functions, the Selberg class.)

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hand-drawn three-dimensional graph
Credit: TakuyaMurata (uploader)

This is a hand-drawn graph of the absolute value (or modulus) of the gamma function on the complex plane, as published in the 1909 book Tables of Higher Functions, by Eugene Jahnke and Fritz Emde. Such three-dimensional graphs of complicated functions were rare before the advent of high-resolution computer graphics (even today, tables of values are used in many contexts to look up function values instead of consulting graphs directly). Published even before applications for the complex gamma function were discovered in theoretical physics in the 1930s, Jahnke and Emde's graph "acquired an almost iconic status", according to physicist Michael Berry. See a similar computer-generated image for comparison. When restricted to positive integers, the gamma function generates the factorials through the relation Γ(n) = (n − 1)!, which is the product of all positive integers from n − 1 down to 1 (0! is defined to be equal to 1). For real and complex numbers, the function is defined by the improper integral . This integral diverges when t is a negative integer, which is causing the spikes in the left half of the graph (these are simple poles of the function, where its values increase to infinity, analogous to asymptotes in two-dimensional graphs). The gamma function has applications in quantum physics, astrophysics, and fluid dynamics, as well as in number theory and probability.

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