Yu Jianchun, a Chinese migrant worker without a college degree, has proven to be a mathematical wunderkind, shocking experts in the field. He's earned the cheeky moniker of China's "Good Will Hunting," a reference to the seminal Matt Damon-Ben Affleck film that launched the careers of both star actors.
Yu, 33, works for a parcel delivery company and said he simply has always had a passion for numbers, CNN reported. Yu drew the attention of scholars when he reportedly found a new method for verifying Carmichael numbers, known as sort of "pseudo prime" numbers. Carmichael numbers, at first blush, pass tests that show they are prime numbers but further examinations show they are not. If Yu's work is verified, he essentially found a new way to weed these numbers out, the Washington Post reported.
Experts said his solution was novel and efficient. "He has never received any systematic training in number theory nor taken advanced math classes," said Cai Tianxin, a math professor at Zhejiang University, to CNN. "All he has is an instinct and an extreme sensitivity to numbers."
"I was overwhelmed with joy, because my solution was completely different to the classic algorithm," Yu said, via CNN.
Yu reportedly wrote letters to scholars for eight years before receiving recognition for his work. He recently presented his work to the public at at graduate seminar at the behest of Cai.
"I made my discoveries through intuition," Yu told China Daily, a state-backed Chinese news outlet. "I would write down what I thought when inspiration struck about the Carmichael."
Yu has since become a bit of a local celebrity after receiving media attention. He apparently remains humble and downplays his abilities — despite the fact that his work, if verified, would be a revelatory finding.
"I'm slow-witted," he said, according to CNN. "I need to spend far more time studying math problems than others. Although I am sensitive to numbers, I barely have any knowledge about calculus or geometry."