The Science & Engineering Library presents an exhibit called “Open Problems: So You Want to Be Famous?” and curated by Jan Figa.
The focus of this exhibit is a special collection of 23 Open Problems due to David Hilbert which he announced at the Second International Congress in Paris on August 8, 1900.
An open problem is any known important question that can be accurately stated and is unsolved.
Hilbert’s problems were designed to serve as examples for the kinds of problems whose solutions would lead to the furthering of disciplines in mathematics. As such, some were areas for investigation and therefore not strictly “problems.”
At the turn of the millennium celebrated Field’s Medal winner Steve Smale created a list of 18 challenging problems one of which is known as the Poincaré conjecture, solved by Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman in 2002. The Poincaré conjecture carried a million dollar bounty by the Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts (CMI). However, Perelman refused the prize as well as bypassing the traditional journal publishers, and posted the articles at arXiv (arxiv.org/), a free and open journal archive hosted by Cornell University Library.
Perelman’s approach mirrors that of 10,000+ scientists who communicate their ideas for rapid dissemination using any available means, preferably open access. Scientific progress demands unfettered access to cost-effective organized information resources. Scientific desktop publishing has been utterly inexpensive since the 1990s, and begs the question why commercial publishers still have a strangle hold on the scientific journal literature, thereby curtailing global scientific production. To address that question we have to look at tenure trappings, copyright claws, and institutional inertia.
To see photos, visit the SEL Exhibits page.