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The math professor tests age-old conjectures about the formation of the solar system

Mayer Humi

WPI mathematical physicist Mayer Humi has been studying the solar system for decades. Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute / Matthew Burgos

Using a limited set of mathematical equations, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Professor of Mathematics Mayer Humi said he confirmed a 224-year mathematical conjecture about the origins of our solar system, providing insight into the process that leads to the formation of solar systems through the ̵


“The scientific community is now aware that there are thousands of solar systems in the galaxy. But what is not known is how these solar systems were born, “said Humi.” And what I have done is to show that the first step in creating a solar system is the emergence of rings around a protostar. So from that point of view, I was able to verify a conjecture that’s over two centuries old. “

Humi’s peer-reviewed paper on the subject, titled “On the Evolution of a Primordial Interstellar Gas Cloud”, was recently published in Journal of Mathematical Physics and was designated “Editor’s Choice” as a featured piece.

Humi, a mathematical physicist working on the development and application of mathematical methods in astrophysics, atmospheric research and satellite orbits, has been studying this question for more than 20 years. It’s a mystery that has captivated many generations of scientists and an investigation that has become more relevant as observations have confirmed that solar systems and exoplanets are abundant in our galaxy. A conjecture, Humi noted, is a mathematical claim that has not been proven.

“We want to know how our solar system will evolve as time goes by,” Humi said. “There are two theories: a conjecture is that all the planets will be absorbed by the sun. The other conjecture is that the planets are running away from the sun. The fundamental question is: how stable is the solar system? Will we be absorbed by the sun or will we run away from the sun? “

Protoplanetary disk of HL Tauri

The protoplanetary disk around ALMA’s star HL Tau. Credit: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO), NSF

Humi says this research also has implications for issues like climate change and the environment. “Imagine getting a few million miles closer to the sun. This would lead to major changes in the climate and an impact on humanity. The oceans could evaporate. “

In 1796, the French mathematical physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace hypothesized that the first step in forming a solar system from a cloud of primordial celestial gas requires the creation of rings of condensed matter within a cloud.

Even with its intuitively captivating content, Humi said, this conjecture has remained unverified for more than two centuries despite much effort. Until now.

Humi was able to use a time-dependent model (based on the Euler-Poisson equations) for the evolution of a primordial gas cloud and confirmed, for what Humi believes is the first time, that, under suitable conditions , Laplace’s conjecture is correct.

Humi said there were some challenges with her research.

“The real hurdle I had to overcome to achieve this was being able to reduce the complexity of the original model,” he said. “That model has six nonlinear partial differential equations, which I reduced to three. I then provided analytical solutions to these equations, which proved the creation of rings of matter as hypothesized by Laplace “.

Humi noted that in recent years there has been an increase in interest in the Laplace conjecture due to the actual discovery of ring structures around the star HL Tau in the constellation of Taurus.

Humi said his research is distinctive because it makes us consider our very existence.

“It refers to the old question about humanity, our place in the universe and our destiny,” he said.

Reference: “On the evolution of a primordial interstellar gas cloud” by Mayer Humi, 15 September 2020, Journal of Mathematical Physics.
DOI: 10.1063 / 1.5144917

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