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 user 2006-08-22 at 12:47:00 pm Views: 43
  • #16169

    Maths genius declines top prize
    Perelman, the Russian who seems to have solved one of the hardest
    problems in mathematics, has declined one of the top prizes in
    maths.The Fields Medals are among the most important prizes for
    mathematics, and Perelman was to have picked up the award at a ceremony
    in Madrid.However, organisers told the BBC that Perelman had turned
    down the prize.In 2002, Perelman claimed to have solved a century-old
    problem called the Poincare Conjecture.So far, experts combing through
    his proof in order to verify it have found no significant flaws.”The
    official statement regarding Grigory Perelman is that he has declined
    to accept the medal,” said a spokesperson for the International
    Congress of Mathematicians, which organised the meeting at which the
    prizes were announced.

    Prestigious honour
    Fields Medals come with prize money of 15,000 Canadian dollars (£7,000)
    for each recipient. They are awarded every four years.There had been
    considerable speculation that Grigory “Grisha” Perelman would decline
    the award. The Russian has been described as an “unconventional” and
    “reclusive” genius who spurns self-promotion.Observers also suspect he
    will refuse a $1m (£529,000) prize offered by the Clay Mathematics
    Institute in Massachusetts, US, if his proof of the Poincare Conjecture
    stands up to scrutiny.The Fields Medals are regarded as the equivalent
    of the Nobel Prize for mathematics. They are awarded to mathematicians
    under the age of 40 for an outstanding body of work and are decided by
    an anonymous committee. The age limit of 40 is designed to encourage
    future endeavour.The winners are Andrei Okounkov of the University of
    California, Berkeley, Terence Tao from the University of California,
    Los Angeles, and Wendelin Werner of the University of Paris-Sud in
    Orsay, France.

    Exemplary behaviour
    quite an honour – very different to anything that’s happened to me
    before. This prize is the highest in mathematics,” Terence Tao told the
    BBC News website.”Most prizes are specific to a single field, but this
    recognises achievement across the whole of mathematics.”Tao received
    the award for a diverse body of work that, amongst other things, has
    shed light on the properties of prime numbers. Despite being the
    youngest of the winners at 31, he has a variety of mathematical proofs
    to his name and has published over 80 papers.Fellow winner Wendelin
    Werner, whose work straddles the intersection between maths and
    physics, commented: “We are all around 40 years old – so still
    relatively young. It’s a big honour but also quite a lot of pressure
    for the future.”Andrei Okounkov, who works on probability theory,
    commented: “I suppose we will have to exhibit exemplary behaviour from
    now on, because a lot of people will be watching.”A spokesperson for
    the Clay Mathematics Institute said it would put off making a decision
    on any award for two years. The $1m prize could be awarded jointly to
    Perelman and US mathematician Richard Hamilton, who devised the “Ricci
    flow” equation that forms the basis for the Russian’s solution.Grigory
    Perelman was born in Leningrad (St Petersburg) in 1966 in what was then
    the Soviet Union. Aged 16, he won the top prize at the International
    Mathematical Olympiad in Budapest in 1982.Having received his doctorate
    from St Petersburg State University, he taught at various US
    universities during the 1990s before returning home to take up a post
    at the Steklov Mathematics Institute.

    Century-old problem
    resigned from the institute suddenly on January 1, and has reportedly
    been unemployed since.”He was very polite but he didn’t talk very
    much,” said Natalya Stepanovna, a former colleague at the Steklov
    Mathematics Institute in St Petersburg. On his decision to resign his
    post, she speculated: “Maybe he wanted to be free to do his
    research.”Perelman gained international recognition in 2002 and 2003
    when he published two papers online that purported to solve the
    Poincare Conjecture.The riddle had perplexed mathematicians since it
    was first posited by Frenchman Henri Poincare in 1904.It is a central
    question in topology, the study of the geometrical properties of
    objects that do not change when they are stretched, distorted or
    shrunk.The hollow shell of the surface of the Earth is what topologists
    call a two-dimensional sphere. If one were to encircle it with a lasso
    of string, it could be pulled tight to a point.On the surface of a
    doughnut however, a lasso passing through the hole in the centre cannot
    be shrunk to a point without cutting through the surface.Since the 19th
    Century, mathematicians have known that the sphere is the only enclosed
    two-dimensional space with this property. But they were uncertain about
    objects with more dimensions.The Poincare Conjecture says that a
    three-dimensional sphere is the only enclosed three-dimensional space
    with no holes. But proof of the conjecture has so far eluded