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Chinese migrant worker turns out to be a math genius

A Chinese man who describes himself as “slow witted” has found an alternative solution to a complex math problem. Yu Jianchun never went to college but is described as having an instinct and sensitivity to numbers.

He works as a delivery truck driver and says he spends his breaks studying numbers. But his big discovery came during his free time while building a house in his village last summer. Yu found proof of an alternative way to verify Carmichael numbers, also called pseudo primes. The numbers are used in computer sciences and information security.

In the 20 years since the infinite family of Carmichael numbers was constructed by academics, only variations on that theme have been discovered. Yu’s is different and potentially more efficient. It took him eight years to get academics to pay attention to his claims.

He presented his proof at a seminar for graduate students last month (June 2016) at a Chinese university. He also presented solutions to four other problems leading many to refer to him as Good Will Hunting after a lead character that was a math genius in a movie of the same name. Yu says he has never seen the film but looks forward to seeing it soon.

His employer has given him a new position that gives him more time to spend trying to work out solutions to other mathematical problems.


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