The next steps, Adams says, will be to carry out equally tough calculations on each of E8's 450,000-plus representations to determine which are members of a class that are of particular interest to mathematicians.
This is the latest case in which mathematicians have relied on computers to solve thorny problems. In 2005 the Annals of Mathematics published a computer-aided proof of Kepler's conjecture (about the most efficient way to stack spheres) after reviewers spent four years checking the code fed into the computer but finally gave up without completing the task.
Experts say the Lie Atlas will be easier to confirm because mathematicians will actually use it in their work. "Here the answer itself is of great interest to experts and users, and there are many consistency checks that the answers must satisfy," says mathematician Peter Sarnak of Princeton University. "It will be interesting to see the final product, which I hope they make sure is user-friendly."