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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Erdos's Hard-To-Win Prizes Still Draw Bounty Hunters," by Charles Seife. Science, 5 April 2002, pages 39-40.

Paul Erdos, with an output of more than 1500 papers during his lifetime, hashad 62 papers bearing his name published since his death. This articleconcerns the legacy of unsolved problems that Erdos left behind and the cashprizes associated with those problems. People who solve a problem receive acash award, the size of which depends on the difficulty of the problem. In1993, Ron Graham had Erdos sign some of Graham's checks "to be filled outlater." These checks are intended as souvenirs for those who solve a problem,but Graham also sends out real checks (bearing his signature). He has sent outabout US$3000 so far and estimates that the remainder of the unsolved problemshave awards totalling about US$25,000. The article concludes with a quote fromGraham regarding Erdos' unsolved problems: "These problems serve as Socraticgadflies, reminding us of how much we have to learn."

--- Mike Breen