Monday, August 23, 2010

Leisure Reading: Perelman v. Yau in Mathematics

4-minute video version of the story by Ray Uzwyshyn

Thanks to my friend B. for pointing out this 2006 New Yorker story of the solution to a famous problem in mathematics called the Poincaré Conjecture.

I'm fascinated by the figure of Grigory Perelman, the elusive Russian who clearly believes his distance from institutional centers is necessary for creative work -- the problem is that mathematics is in fact a collaborative enterprise, so he still must communicate with people at certain times and in certain places.

But on the other hand, the Chinese mathematicians present an even more urgent problem, the problem of requiring compensation for producing knowledge. Perelman's statement "If the proof is correct then no other recognition is needed" is a beautiful ideal, but more common, and finally more understandable, is Yau's ambition: “We want our contribution understood. ... If you can attach your name in any way, it is a contribution.”

1 comment:

  1. one might recoil from people greedily seizing one's name


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