Mathematic Marvel

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

"It's great, and I'm thrilled, and almost, you know, still in a little bit of shock that I've come through."

Karl Mahlburg has come through in a big way.

In the simplest of terms, the UW grad school student recently solved a mathematical maze of sorts, capitalizing on the work of a litany of mathematicians in a century-old effort to explain the existence of number patterns, called congruences.

Karl explains, "What I've done, and building off of what my advisor, Ken Ono has done, is really kind of starting to close the book on a very big part of this problem."

Karl is 25-years-old, he's been in graduate school for four years, working eight hours a day, most days, for the past 1.5 years to reach his conclusion. And, while he says he's pleased with the solution to this problem, he quickly adds, there's much more for this mathematician.

He says, "There's no shortage of good math to do, I don't know if I'll get on t.v. for the next things I do.”

Karl explains the practical applications of his work include security codes for Internet credit card purchases.

"You just have some big, complicated, random numbers that no hacker could guess, and you use that to mix, up your data, and that makes it safe."

If nothing else, Karl says he hopes his efforts add to the public's interest in integers.

Karl says the findings could someday be used by physicists to explain the grouping of high-energy particles.

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