Friday, July 2, 2010

Russian Math Genius Grigory Perelman Can Solve a Riddle but Won't Accept a Prize

I was amazed at this story Grigory Perelman - a Russian mathematician - turned down $1 million prize for solving a complex mathematical problem that has stood for over 100 years.

Perelman's fame is due to his solving a riddle that has had mathematicians scratching their heads since 1904, when the Frenchman Henri Poincare posited that a three-dimensional sphere is the only such space that doesn't have holes.

The Russian attracted attention in 2003 when he posted papers on the Internet that later turned out to be proof of Poincare's theory. But Perelman refuses to take all the credit, saying he had built on the work of a Columbia University professor, Richard Hamilton.

Some people think he's crazy. The article I read about this goes on to say:

According to Interfax, Perelman said, "To put it short, the main reason is my disagreement with the organized mathematical community. I don't like their decisions. I consider them unjust."

The article seems to suggest that this is crazy talk. It doesn't seem crazy to me. Almost every organized community is corrupt. Why would the mathematical community be any different?

Back in 2006, the then president of the International Mathematical Union, John Ball, said he had traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, where Perelman lives in seclusion with his elderly mother, to try to better understand the Russian's reasons for rejecting awards.

Ball told the BBC he had spoken to Perelman about his differences with the mathematical community.

"However, I am unable to disclose these comments in public," Ball said, adding, "He has a different psychological makeup, which makes him see life differently."

This part intrigued me - "psychological makeup, which make him see life differently" is a polite way of saying that Perelman is nuts. I kind of would like to know what Perelman said to Ball. I bet he had choice words as to how unjust the organizations are that have been trying to give him money.

Russian Math Genius Grigory Perelman Can Solve a Riddle but Won't Accept a Prize
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