Category: Mathematics

The Simplest Math Problem No One Can Solve

The Simplest Math Problem No One Can Solve


The Collatz Conjecture is the simplest math problem no one can solve — it is easy enough for almost anyone to understand but notoriously difficult to solve. This video is sponsored by Brilliant. The first 200 people to sign up via get 20% off a yearly subscription.

Special thanks to Prof. Alex Kontorovich for introducing us to this topic, filming the interview, and consulting on the script and earlier drafts of this video.

Lagarias, J. C. (2006). The 3x+ 1 problem: An annotated bibliography, II (2000-2009). arXiv preprint math/0608208. —

Lagarias, J. C. (2003). The 3x+ 1 problem: An annotated bibliography (1963–1999). The ultimate challenge: the 3x, 1, 267-341. —

Tao, T (2020). The Notorious Collatz Conjecture —

A. Kontorovich and Y. Sinai, Structure Theorem for (d,g,h)-Maps, Bulletin of the Brazilian Mathematical Society, New Series 33(2), 2002, pp. 213-224.

A. Kontorovich and S. Miller Benford’s Law, values of L-functions and the 3x+1 Problem, Acta Arithmetica 120 (2005), 269-297.

A. Kontorovich and J. Lagarias Stochastic Models for the 3x + 1 and 5x + 1 Problems, in “The Ultimate Challenge: The 3x+1 Problem,” AMS 2010.

Tao, T. (2019). Almost all orbits of the Collatz map attain almost bounded values. arXiv preprint arXiv:1909.03562. —

Conway, J. H. (1987). Fractran: A simple universal programming language for arithmetic. In Open problems in Communication and Computation (pp. 4-26). Springer, New York, NY. —

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Written by Derek Muller, Alex Kontorovich and Petr Lebedev
Animation by Iván Tello, Jonny Hyman, Jesús Enrique Rascón and Mike Radjabov
Filmed by Derek Muller and Emily Zhang
Edited by Derek Muller
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev and Emily Zhang

3d Coral by Vasilis Triantafyllou and Niklas Rosenstein —
Coral visualisation by Algoritmarte —