Just because we haven't talked enough about crazy mathematicians yet, I found another one. But is he really crazy, or just weird? I found an article from The New Yorker while researching which is, interestingly enough, co-written by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind. Seems she is more obsessed with strange mathematicians than we are. The name of the article is "Manifold Destiny" and while I haven't read the whole thing, it sounds interesting and hopefully I will have time to read it this weekend.

The Poincare Conjecture was an open question in topology proposed by one of the founders of the field, Henri Poincare. First proposed in 1904, a proof has been attempted nearly every year since. In 2000 the Poincare Conjecture, with six other open problems by as the Millennium Prize Problems by the Clay Mathematics Institute. With this designation, the first person to successfully prove one of the seven problems is entitled to a $1 million reward from the Clay Mathematics Institute. In 2002, a Russian Mathematician named Grigori Perelman began posting a series of papers with a proposed proof of the conjecture. After review by different high-profile mathematicians, his proof was found to be free of errors, effectively making the Poincare Conjecture a theorem. In 2006 the International Congress of Mathematicians awarded Perelman the Fields Medal, considered the most prestigious award a mathematician can receive, but Perelman declined to accept the award. First awarded in 1936 and to no more than four mathematicians every four years since, the Fields Medal has only been awarded to 44 people in over 70 years. Three of the medals have even been for work related to the Poincare Conjecture, but nobody had ever proved it until Perelman. Likewise, nobody had ever rejected the Fields Medal until Perelman. It is also speculated that Perelman will not accept the Millenium Prize of up to $1 million if offered. As of 2003, Perelman has been unemployed, living with his mother in St. Petersburg.

The New Yorker article has a rare interview with Perelman conducted in 2006 discussing his reasons for turning down the award, which are mostly political. But, consindering his current situation, perhaps he did not deserve the award. The award was established with the restriction that in order to be elligible to receive the award, the mathematician must have not celebrated their 40th birthday by January 1 of the year it is awarded. This was established to encourage recipients to continue working in Mathematics for further achievements as a result of the award. But, Perelman has withdrawn from the Mathematics community entirely, in what can be viewed as a very selfish act. Furthermore, if he were in fact awarded the Millenium Prize, either in part or entirely and refused to accept it, what kind of statement would that be? At the very basic level, the money could be put toward a charity or the continuation of Mathematics in some way. Instead, Perelman with his vast knowledge and problem-solving abilities is ignoring all the ways in which he could help those around him.

I am not sure whethere to consider Perelman another crazy mathematician, or just weird. Or perhaps he is just selfish and maybe a little stuck-up. Of course, I do not know all of the politics involved, not to mention any other controversies that may be attached. But, if Perelman was not concerned with the prestige of his accomplishment and wished to avoid attention, I think he did himself in by being the first ever to not accept the award. In accepting the award, he would not have reporters from The New Yorker traveling all the way to his home to interview him. So perhaps he realized that by turning down the award he would receive more attention, and that is what he really wanted. Of course, this is all speculation. Perhaps I will have a different viewpoint after I read the full article.

## Friday, April 11, 2008

### Are You Crazy?

Posted by Miguel at 11:44 AM

Tags: a beautiful mind, Grigori Perelman, Poincare Conjecture, Sylvia Nasar

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## 3 comments:

I think Perelman's crazy, lonely, and weird. He's super old and still lives with his mother... I only know a handful of people in that situation and they're all crazy, lonely and weird... so by induction...

I actually found this article a couple of weeks ago and I can't help but think that Perelman is incredibly weird. It would be hard for me to turn down money and fame for my hard work.

Anyone who doesn't accept a million dollars is not sane. I mean, he could accept it and donate it to some math fellowship or something. Also, I heard that he doesn't cut his fingernails. I bet that drives his mother crazy!

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