This is the answer to our "difficult problem" tonight

American prisoners who drop out of school solve academic problems

How would a drug-addicted murderer spend the rest of his life after being arrested?

Spending decades of imprisonment in confession, and leading a relief fund to spend his old age when he was completely disconnected from the world after coming out, this is the best ending we can think of. As long as he takes the wrong step and catches drugs, I am afraid that waiting for him is to die in prison or corpse on the streets.

But for Christopher Havens in the severe jail in Seattle, his path to salvation came from contracting another “addiction”-solving math problems.

Christopher at the time of his arrest and his manuscript of solving problems in prison

In 2010, Christopher was arrested for drug use and murder, and was later sentenced to 25 years in prison. Not long after he was in prison, he was forcibly transferred to a small single-person cell because of gang fights in the prison.

In this way, he is indeed a complete bastard.

Christopher (left) and his associates shot and killed a drug dealer in 2010 in a drug dispute

But in the single room, each prisoner must face the extreme boredom of being alone. Generally speaking, they will scream inside, hit the wall, and even “smear feces on the vents” just to attract outside attention.

Christopher seemed a bit different from ordinary people. Although he dropped out of school in his sophomore year and his memories of his youth became obscured because of drug addicts, he liked to play Sudoku for no reason.

Fortunately, when he started to feel bored, the person who patrolled and looked after their group of prisoners sent him a package of “mathematics homework” every day. Christopher only knows that everyone calls the person “Mr. G” (Mr. G), but it is obvious that he is a caring person who carefully observes and is dedicated to leading the prisoners out of the shadows.

A simple Sudoku game (if you are interested, you can try the answer at the end of the article)

Almost every day, Mr. G will give him a package of new math problems, which are basically basic questions about algebra.

At first, Christopher still felt a little unable to start, but soon he discovered his talent: as long as he meditated for long enough, he could answer all the questions. In prison, the last thing he lacks is time.

Over the next few months, he kept asking Mr. G if he had any more advanced math problems. The “homework” given to him by Mr. G gradually changed from a complete set of basic problems to mathematical puzzles written on a piece of paper. Until the end, Mr. G said to him: “Mr. Havens, your ability has surpassed me. Good luck.”

Christopher believes that this is the first time in his life he has realized his amazing talent. He used to be addicted to drugs, and what he was best at were sneaky activities. And now, every newly solved equation makes him feel extremely happy and full of accomplishment.

But in fact, he may have lost some of his previous memories due to drug use. According to his mother’s description, Christopher was exceptionally good in math from elementary school, and even his teacher often asked him to help teach other students.

After graduating from “Mr. G’s Homework Class”, he began to teach himself trigonometry, calculus, and then advanced mathematics such as hypergeometric summation. He basically got the textbooks he needed at this stage by contacting his mother on the phone, but after a few months, the textbooks he requested were so obscure that his mother didn’t know where to find them.

So in January 2013, Christopher wrote a letter to Mathematical Sciences Publishers “for help”. He said that self-study in prison has been unable to break through his own bottleneck. He hopes to get advice and help, and he wants to subscribe to the famous journal Annals of Mathematics (Annals of Mathematics), a leading journal in the field.

Christopher’s handwriting

The editor of the publishing house looked at his letter and felt a little skeptical, so he told his friend Marta Cerruti the news. Marta Cerruti relayed the news to his father, Umberto Cerruti, a professor of mathematics at the University of Turin.

The professor was also dubious about Christopher’s ability to learn mathematics by himself, but out of the mentality of helping his daughter, he wrote back to him with a difficult problem about number theory.

Some time later, Umberto Cerruti received a 1.2-meter-long paper with an incredibly long formula written on it-the answer to his difficult problem.

This is the answer to our "difficult problem" tonight
This is the answer to our “difficult problem” tonight

In order to verify Christopher’s “wild way” solution, the mathematics professor needs to use a computer to enter the formula. In other words, Christopher took a long time to answer, mainly because he needs to rely on pure handwriting to solve any problem.

Then, Umberto Cerruti of the University of Turin, and Dr. Gary Gordon, a mathematics professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, all sent him an invitation to help solve ancient mathematical problems. The chicken thief is that none of these old professors told him in advance that these problems are still unsolved.

As a result, relying on paper and pen alone, Christopher put forward his own unique insights on the number theory problem involving so-called continuous fractions. Although his conclusions, strictly speaking, have not completely solved the mathematical problems left by Euclid, they are “enough to open up a new field of mathematical theoretical research.”

Christopher as a child

Umberto Cerruti helped him to clarify the idea of ​​proof in the form of academic statements, and then in January 2020, the two of them jointly signed the research paper in the journal “Research in Number Theory”.

After his fame, he became a special student of Dr. Amit Sahai, a cryptographer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in prison. Amit said, “He is the most diligent student I have encountered in my entire academic career.” He can devote his whole day to solving any problems the teacher sends him.

This is the answer to our "difficult problem" tonight
Christopher who held the “Pi Day” celebration in the prison

The most gratifying thing is that Christopher, who is on the right path step by step, is still “opening classes” in prison. They set March 14th each year as a celebration day for mathematics-loving inmates, and also invited mathematics professors to participate in the activity.

In this regard, Christopher said with great ambition: “Most prisoners can only start their discriminated job search careers tremblingly after being released, and many will go back astray. But we are not. I will redefine the productivity of prisons.”