A Salutory Tale

This morning as I woke up, a science fiction story entered my mind, complete. Here is that story, without adding any detail or embellishments, to keep it short.

The time is the present. The World is in political turmoil, not helped in the slightest by the Pandemic raging around the planet. If you have checked the various social media outlets you may be surprised to see a greater number of UFO sightings than usual. Well one of those UFOs decided to make a landing today and this is what was relayed to the gathered crowd via its sound system.

“Your World is currently in a state of chaos. You seem unable to organise yourselves effectively to sort out your problems, so we are here to help you. I am leaving you with a data bank. I ask you to solve one of your Millennial problems, any one, it doesn’t matter which one, and then you scan your solution using the panel on the front of the data bank and we will then show you how to sort out your problems.”

With that the data bank was deposited on the pavement outside the UFO and the UFO lifted off silently into the daytime sky.

Hundreds of cell-phones had recorded the event and it wasn’t too long before things got organised to enable the solution of a Millenial Problem in double quick time. The data bank was taken to a hotel on the bank of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, together with 150 of the World’s top mathematicians (and their families) from Russia, America, Germany, U.K. , China, India and Hungary. Fully aware of the importance of their task the mathematicians quickly organised themselves into groups, each group looking at a separate Millennial Problem, and then they got to work.

For the first year, nothing much seemed to be happening, the Problems were as intractable as ever. Then in the middle of year two a tiny gap appeared in one of the Problems that showed promise. All the mathematicians now concentrated on this one problem and by the middle of year 3, considerable progress had been made. Finally, at the beginning of year 5 the problem had been completely solved and the mathematicians had their 120-page proof to scan into the data bank.

Under the glare of the World’s media the event was being viewed by the greatest population ever to view an event on planet Earth. A Hungarian mathematician was chosen to be the one to scan in the valuable documents and with shaking hands he proceeded to do so. With the 120th page scanned in, the scanner surface became a display surface, and this is what it showed.

“Congratulations! By a concerted International effort by your World’s best mathematicians you have solved one of your most difficult mathematical problems. In comparison, your Political problems are almost trivial. So get on with it!”


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