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Manifold Destiny

August 30, 2006

Steve Mayer links to a fascinating story told by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber in the New Yorker about Grigory Perelman and the Poincaré conjecture. (In blogging this, I see that it was linked to from a Slashdot story last week also.) Check it out here:

MANIFOLD DESTINY

A legendary problem and the battle over who solved it.

Yau, a stocky man of fifty-seven, stood at a lectern in shirtsleeves and black-rimmed glasses and, with his hands in his pockets, described how two of his students, Xi-Ping Zhu and Huai-Dong Cao, had completed a proof of the Poincaré conjecture a few weeks earlier. “I’m very positive about Zhu and Cao’s work,” Yau said. “Chinese mathematicians should have every reason to be proud of such a big success in completely solving the puzzle.” He said that Zhu and Cao were indebted to his longtime American collaborator Richard Hamilton, who deserved most of the credit for solving the Poincaré. He also mentioned Grigory Perelman, a Russian mathematician who, he acknowledged, had made an important contribution.

I don’t really have an opinion on this, I’m just somewhat fascinated by geek drama. I think international fights over chess are pretty entertaining also. (A good chess blog for that is here.) In any case, Perelman refused the Fields Medal, which is probably the only reason the story has made the news at all.

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