Convicted murderer solves ancient maths riddle from his prison cell

A man who currently serving 25 years in prison for murder solved an ancient mathematics problem from his prison cell – despite never finishing high school.

Convicted murderer Christopher Havens mastered advanced mathematics by honing his skills during his sentence.

It sounds strange but prisoners often have access to books for re-education in the hope they will one day become rehabilitated. During his term, Havens managed to solve an ancient maths problem.

What makes this impressive is that Havens didn’t even finish high school. According to DW News, he dropped out of school, couldn’t find a job and became a drug addict.

Havens dropped out of high school
(Image: Getty Images)

He has been in prison near Seattle for nine years after being convicted of murder. He is now 40-years old, the Mirror reports.

During his time in prison, Christopher found a passion for mathematics and mastered basic higher mathematics. He is allowed to have textbooks posted to him, but only if he teaches other inmates his skills in return.

He decided to send a handwritten letter from prison to a mathematics publisher for some issues of the ‘Annals of Mathematics’ to see if he could challenge himself.

An editor at the Mathematica Science Publisher sent the letter to his partner, who forwarded it to her father, a mathematics professor at Umberto Cerruti from Turin, who gave the prisoner a problem to solve to test his abilities.

What happened next was pretty mind-blowing. Umberto received an answer by post, which was a 47-inch-long piece of paper with a long formula written on it. Havens had answered the maths task correctly.

That wasn’t it for Havens though. Using only a pen and paper, he solved a number theory involving ‘continued fractions’ which Cerruti had been trying to solve for a long time.

But what exactly are continued fractions?

A continued fraction is basically a mixed fraction in which the denominator has the form of a mixed fraction, with this structure continuing towards infinity making the fractions linked together.

They aren’t used for simple maths though, they often solve the approximation problems with which one approaches a result in complex calculations.

The answer to the solution was 47 pages long
The answer to the solution was 47 pages long
(Image: Getty Images)

The theory is used in modern cryptography which is used in things like banking, finance and military communications – so it’s a pretty big deal.

Havens cracked the maths puzzle for the first time and found regulations in the approximation of a large class of numbers, which is very impressive for someone who never finished school. It resulted in him and Cerutti finishing a scholarly publication.

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