This is a slightly belated but massive congratulations to my university friend, Alex Smith.
Towards the end of October Alex had told me that he'd done something that had resulted in a company trying to give him money, but he said he couldn't tell me what it was, yet. Then I heard the university press office was frantically trying to get in touch with him and I started to wonder what it was!
On 24th October my housemate told me I should look at the front page of Birmingham University's web site. There was an article saying that Alex had won a $25,000 prize from Wolfram Research for proving that "Wolfram's 2,3 Turing Machine is Universal"! (no I didn't know what that meant either until I looked it up).
In Stephen Wolfram's blog entry you can read how he didn't know whether it would take a month or a century to prove, Alex managed it in 5 months. In fact, his initial submission was just 47 days after the competiton was announced! You can read Alex's 50 page proof here.
Alex described himself as "an undergraduate studying Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Birmingham, UK. He has a background in mathematics and esoteric programming languages". I worked with Alex on our robot project last year and this year we're in the same group for our Masters Group Project (Radio Orienteering). I've told him that now that he's a celebrity, he shouldn't let the fame go to his head 😛 We've still got work to do, after all. However, as with any major discovery Alex's proof is already causing contreversy and people are trying to prove him wrong. Alex has proved during countless interjections during lectures that he loves a good argument, so I expect it to keep him occupied for some time 🙂
I'll watch the debate unravel with interest (albeit a regretful lack of understanding!), having his claims put under scrutiny is all part of the academic process.
Well done, Alex!