In case you haven’t been following the buzz, Vinay Deolalikar of HP labs, posted a proof that on his web page last Friday. This is one of the Clay Millenium Math Prize Problems. The math and computer science community immediately mobilized after the announcement to check the proof. A summary of the events can be found here. Many of the world’s foremost mathematicians and computer scientists spent several intense days discussing the proof. At this point, they have yet to reach a conclusion, although the paper has already been revised twice in response to the comments. I was quite impressed at how cordial and supportive the whole process went. Although many of the checkers were skeptical, everyone, which included Fields medalists, were always supportive and polite. Their attitude was that even if the proof was wrong, they were thankful of Deolalikar for bringing the community together and getting everyone excited. I find that the camaraderie seen in mathematics, is often lacking in other fields. It seems like the nastiness in a discipline is inversely proportional to the clarity of the progress.
Aug 13, 2010: linked fixed.