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Friday, August 25, 2006

Sylvia Nasar & David Gruber discuss the unravelling of the Poincare Conjecture

This is a great article. For one thing, it tears away at the veil behind Mathematics and the orderly proofs of great conjectures, and gets at the meaty politics of credit-taking and glory-seeking culture of academics in their search for recognition amongst their peers. The irony of Perelman rejecting all the honors that the field of Mathematics tries to bestow upon him constrasts sharply with the glory-seeking national-pride academics who try to claim credit for his ideas and his proofs. If anyone has any illusions that the pursuit of Pure Mathematics is one of idealism without pretension, this article should dispel them. It's delightful, enjoyable, in depth, and enlightening.

Highly recommended!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this article, Piaw. I laughed out loud at this passage:

"""
Before we arrived in St. Petersburg, on June 23rd, we had sent several messages to his e-mail address at the Steklov Institute, hoping to arrange a meeting, but he had not replied. We took a taxi to his apartment building and, reluctant to intrude on his privacy, left a book—a collection of John Nash’s papers—in his mailbox, along with a card saying that we would be sitting on a bench in a nearby playground the following afternoon. The next day, after Perelman failed to appear, we left a box of pearl tea and a note describing some of the questions we hoped to discuss with him. We repeated this ritual a third time. Finally, believing that Perelman was out of town, we pressed the buzzer for his apartment, hoping at least to speak with his mother. A woman answered and let us inside. Perelman met us in the dimly lit hallway of the apartment. It turned out that he had not checked his Steklov e-mail address for months, and had not looked in his mailbox all week. He had no idea who we were.
"""