Teenaged immigrant solves problem that baffled Isaac Newton

By Muriel Kane
Sunday, May 27, 2012 18:58 EDT
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Sir Isaac Newton via Wikimedia Commons
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Sixteen year old Shouryya Ray denies being a genius, but he’s being hailed in news reports for having come up with the solution to a problem that has baffled mathematicians ever since Sir Isaac Newton first posed it over 300 years ago.

The problem involved calculating the path of a projectile that is subject to both gravity and air resistance. Ray also solved a second problem, involving a body colliding with a wall, as part of a school project.

Ray says his chief motivation was curiosity. “When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself: well, there’s no harm in trying,” he explained.

Ray, who was born in Kolkata, India, moved to Germany four years ago when his engineer father got a job teaching at a technical college in Dresden. He says that he acquired his “hunger for mathematics” when he learned calculus from his father at the age of six — but now the son has outstripped the father’s ability to follow.

“He never discussed his project with me before it was finished and the mathematics he used are far beyond my reach,” Subhashis Ray admits.

Painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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