Warwick Tucker, a mathematician at Cornell University, has received the first R. E. Moore Prize for Applications of Interval Analysis. Dr. Tucker has proved, using interval techniques, that the renowned Lorenz equations do in fact possess a strange attractor. This problem, Smale's 14th conjecture, is of particular note in large part because the Lorenz model is widely recognized as signaling the beginning of chaos theory.
The first R. E. Moore Prize was awarded at Validated Computing 2002 in Toronto. Further information about the R. E. Moore prize may be found at http://interval.louisiana.edu/Moore_prize.html.
Here is a description of Tucker's work from MathWorld News, February 13, 2002:
In 1998, mathematician and Fields medalist Steven Smale published a list of problems that would prove challenging to mathematicians in the upcoming century (Smale 1998, 2000). This list was proposed in the spirit of Hilbert's problems, a list of problems put forward by mathematician David Hilbert in 1900, whose solutions Hilbert envisioned would lead to significant furthering of various disciplines of mathematics.
With the publication of Tucker's paper, the 14th problem on Smale's list has become the first to be cracked. Smale's 14th problem asks if the structure of the solution to the so-called Lorenz equations is that of a strange attractor. The Lorenz attractor is the solution space that arises in a simplified system of equations describing the 2-dimensional flow of fluid of uniform depth in the presence of an imposed temperature difference and with gravity, buoyancy, thermal diffusivity, and kinematic viscosity (friction) taken into account. In the early 1960s, Lorenz accidentally discovered that this system exhibits chaotic behavior when he found that, for a simplified system, periodic solutions became larger above a certain critical cutoff value. He also found that vastly different results were obtained for very small changes in the initial values. This represented one of the earliest discoveries of the so-called butterfly effect.
While the Lorenz attractor has been intensely studied for many years, it has previously proved impossible to show that the properties of this solution are exactly those of a mathematical structure known as a strange attractor. Tucker has now laid this nearly 40-year-old problem to rest with a technical proof that makes use of a combination of normal form theory and validated interval arithmetic.
It remains to be seen if any other of Smale's problems can be dispatched as quickly or, like a number of Hilbert's problems, will remain open long into the twenty-second century.
References
Lorenz, E. N. "Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow." J. Atmos. Sci. 20, 130-141, 1963.
Smale, S. "Mathematical Problems for the Next Century." Math. Intelligencer 20, No. 2, 7-15, 1998.
Smale, S. "Mathematical Problems for the Next Century." In Mathematics: Frontiers and Perspectives 2000 (Ed. V. Arnold, M. Atiyah, P. Lax, and B. Mazur). Providence, RI: Amer. Math. Soc., 2000.
Tucker, W. "A Rigorous ODE Solver and Smale's 14th Problem." Found. Comput. Math. 2, 53-117, 2002.