The Polymath Project is a collaboration among mathematicians to solve important and difficult mathematical problems by coordinating many mathematicians to communicate with each other on finding the best route to the solution. The project began in January 2009 on Tim Gowers' blog when he posted a problem and asked his readers to post partial ideas and partial progress toward a solution. This experiment resulted in a new answer to a difficult problem, and since then the Polymath Project has grown to describe a particular process of using an online collaboration to solve any math problem.
In January 2009 Gowers chose to start a social experiment on his blog by choosing an important unsolved mathematical problem and issuing an invitation for other people to help solve it collaboratively in the comments section of his blog. Along with the math problem itself, Gowers asked a question which was included in the title of his blog post, "is massively collaborative mathematics possible?". This post led to his creation of the Polymath Project.
The initial proposed problem for this project, now called Polymath1 by the Polymath community, was to find a new combinatorial proof to the density version of the Hales–Jewett theorem. As the project took form, two main threads of discourse emerged. The first thread, which was carried out in the comments of Gowers's blog, would continue with the original goal of finding a combinatorial proof. The second thread, which was carried out in the comments of Terence Tao's blog, focused on calculating bounds on density of Hales-Jewett numbers and Moser numbers for low dimensions.
After seven weeks, Gowers announced on his blog that the problem was "probably solved", though work would continue on both Gowers's thread and Tao's thread well into May 2009, some three months after the initial announcement. In total over 40 people contributed to the Polymath1 project. Both threads of the Polymath1 project have been successful, producing at least two new papers to be published under the pseudonym D.H.J. Polymath.
The Polymath project also inspired a series of "Mini-Polymath" projects, convened by Tao.
- Nielsen, Michael (2012). Reinventing discovery : the new era of networked science. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-0-691-14890-8.
- Gowers, Tim. "IS massively collaborative mathematics possible?". Gowers' weblog. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Gowers, T.; Nielsen, M. (2009). "Massively collaborative mathematics". Nature 461 (7266): 879–881. Bibcode:2009Natur.461..879G. doi:10.1038/461879a. PMID 19829354.
- Gowers, Tim (1 February 2009). "A combinatorial approach to density Hales-Jewett". Gower's Weblog.
- Nielsen, Michael (2009-03-20). "The Polymath project: scope of participation". Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Polymath (2010). "Deterministic methods to find primes". arXiv:1009.3956 [math.NT].
- Polymath (2010). "Density Hales-Jewett and Moser numbers". arXiv:1002.0374 [math.CO].
- Polymath (2009). "A new proof of the density Hales-Jewett theorem". arXiv:0910.3926 [math.CO].
- Rehmeyer, Julie (April 2010). "Massively Collaborative Mathematics". SIAM News (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) 43 (3).
Research about the polymath project
- Cranshaw, Justin; Kittur, Aniket (2011). "The polymath project: lessons from a successful online collaboration in mathematics". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '11). New York: ACM. pp. 1865–74. doi:10.1145/1978942.1979213. ISBN 978-1-4503-0228-9.
- Barany, Michael J. (2010). "'[B]ut this is blog maths and we're free to make up conventions as we go along': Polymath1 and the modalities of 'massively collaborative mathematics'". Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (WikiSym '10). New York: ACM. Article 10. doi:10.1145/1832772.1832786. ISBN 978-1-4503-0056-8.