• Dr.
    • Roland van der Veen
    • University of Groningen - The Netherlands
    • Mathematics

The unsolvability of the quintic equation

There is a brilliant accident that happens when the degree of the equation is five and the talk will be about what that accident is and how the complex numbers help to analyse the situtation. The main image I'd like to convey is to study how the five solutions to a 5th degree equation move around in the complex plane as one changes the coefficients of the polynomial. That seems hard but is actually very easy to plot and illustrate starting with the well-known ABC formula for quadratic equations. What is not well-known is that you dont have to study mathematics for 3 years to understand why things go south at degree five. All you need is some familiarity with the complex numbers.


Roland recently started as an universitair docent in Groningen after studying in Amsterdam, Berkeley and Leiden. With van de Craats he wrote an introductory book on the Riemann hypothesis for high-school students that won the 2018 AMS Beckenbach award. In daily life Roland often worries about knots in the context of algebra, geometry and mathematical physics.

Roland van der Veen homepage