Fermat Video

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"Fermat's Last Theorem" opens with excerpts from an interview with Andrew Wiles, recorded the day after he made his momentous announcement that he had finally solved the "world's most famous mathematical problem." The remainder of the video contains highlights from an event presented the following month to a sold-out audience at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco under the joint sponsorship of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley (MSRI) and the San Francisco Exploratorium. The key mathematical ideas in the proof are explained in a clear and accessible manner by two mathematicians who were present when Wiles made his announcement: Karl Rubin of Stanford University, and Ken Ribet of UC Berkeley, whose own contributions played a key role in Wiles' proof. Two talks provide some of the background: Robert Osserman of Stanford and MSRI relates some of the mathematical and musical lore from the time of Pythagoras that provided a prelude to Fermat, and Lenore Blum of MSRI fills in the meaning and the history of Fermat's problem from the time he first posed it until the denouement in the work of Wiles. John Conway of Princeton sums it all up with his own inimitable narrative taking us from the first pre-Pythagorean glimmerings in ancient Babylon to the present moment.

Following the presentation, Will Hearst leads a discussion of many of the issues surrounding Fermat's last theorem in the larger context of modern mathematics, with panelists Lenore Blum, John Conway, Lee Dembart, and Ken Ribet.

The talks are interspersed with musical interludes performed by Morris Bobrow, and behind the closing credits we hear the voice of Tom Lehrer singing the song he composed for the occasion: "That's Mathematics."

Included with the video is a 60-page booklet providing much more in the way of background and explanation, as well as a list of references for further reading, including the published papers by Andrew Wiles and his student Richard Taylor containing the details of the final proof.

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