Mathematics is something mysterious. To me at least. And by that I don’t mean the type of mathematics that most of learn at school, that was never a mystery to me. But most modern (and many very old) mathematical theorems are very mysterious to me. Take, for example, the famous Fermat’s Last Theorem, which was proven in 1994. The proof remains completely mysterious to me and I don’t expect to ever understand it. But the stories around the proof, in particular Simon Singh’s book and documentary “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, keep fascinating me.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, Andrew Wiles, who proved the major part of the theorem, likened doing mathematics to a mystery himself. And remember, this guy has worked on the theorem for around seven years, all on his own for the most part. And he likened doing mathematics to exploring an old, dark, abandoned mansion through which you stumble one room at a time and try to find the light switch to finally see what the room looks like. Every step in the proof was once mysterious to Andrew Wiles himself. It’s just a mystery that he took very personally and worked hard on de-mystifying it.
Don’t get me wrong, I would really love to be able to understand the proof, and I am in some sense trying to. I am trying to solve the mystery.