The Scientific Indian

Poincare conjecture

A comprehensive article at The New Yorker on Perelman, PoincarĂ© conjecture and the politics of math. Perelman, as you might have read, refused the Fields medal – the nobel prize like award for math. From the article,

Mikhail Gromov, the Russian geometer, said that he understood Perelman’s logic: “To do great work, you have to have a pure mind. You can think only about the mathematics. Everything else is human weakness. Accepting prizes is showing weakness.” Others might view Perelman’s refusal to accept a Fields as arrogant, Gromov said, but his principles are admirable. “The ideal scientist does science and cares about nothing else,” he said. “He wants to live this ideal. Now, I don’t think he really lives on this ideal plane. But he wants to.”

Comments

  1. #1 gaddeswarup
    August 31, 2006

    Gromov’s comments seem to be appropriate. An unfortunate aspect of current mathematics, as pointed out in http://www.newscientist.com/chan…/ mg19125661.400 is
    “The underlying issue that emerges when you add together Perelman’s work and attitude, the Chinese claims, and the problems of attributing proper credit, is that mathematicians are finding it increasingly difficult to decide whether or not something has been proved.”
    As it is papers are getting increasingly long and difficult and is often difficult to find referees. Announcement, postings of manuscripts at different sites, constant changes in these seem to have added to the problem. About another well-known problem for which solutions were announced in 98 and a paper claiming the solution appeared this June, I received the follwing comments from another who worked on the same problems:

    “That paper has a rather long history, as you
     probably know. Anyhow, I should just indicate that it has
     40 previous versions (I have copies of most of them), in which
     one can literally observe plagiarism, including copied notions, notation
     (at times), and even local mistakes.
     …
     However, it seems that the editor decided to ignore all that and publish
     the paper without any prior notification.
     I’m not sure what can I do now, and whether it is worth doing. I can
     only quote Grisha Perelman, who said in a somewhat related matter, that
     mathematicians are usually quite honest, but they
     are (somehow) willing to tolerate such a phenomena.”

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