So, it seems the arXiv is now so popular that even Leonhard Euler has contributed 25 papers, despite being dead since 1783. (Thanks to Ars Mathematica for this important news item, as well as for the hours of procrastination on my part that led to its rediscovery.) Since I’d long been curious about the mathematical research interests of the nonliving, I decided to check out Leonhard’s most recent preprint, math.HO/0608467 (“Theorems on residues obtained by the division of powers”). The paper starts out slow: explaining in detail why, if a mod p is nonzero, then a2 mod p, a3 mod p, and so on are also nonzero. By the end, though, it’s worked out most of the basics of modular arithmetic, enough (for example) to analyze RSA. Furthermore, the exposition, while “retro” in style, is sufficiently elegant that I might even recommend acceptance at a minor theory conference, even though the basic results have of course been known for like 200 years.
Oh — you say that Mr. E’s papers were as difficult and abstract for their time as Wiles and Perelman’s papers are for our own time? BULLSHIT. Reading the old master brings home the truth: that, for better and worse, math has gotten harder. Much, much harder. And we haven’t gotten any smarter.