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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are mathematicians shy?

Anyone who can solve one of the puzzles of mathematics is obviously a genius and has powers of concentration greater than an entire classroom of middle school students put together, but there’s a certain quirkiness that may come with these abilities. One immediately thinks of the Unabomber (who was a grad student in math at U of M when I used to play softball with the math grad students on Saturday afternoons; don’t think he was one of the players, though). Perelman just seems painfully shy.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Who doesn't want to be a millionaire? Maybe a 43-year-old unemployed bachelor who lives with his elderly mother in Russia — and who won $1 million for solving a problem that has stumped mathematicians for a century. [the Poincare conjecture]

Grigory Perelman can't decide if he wants the money.

"He said he would need to think about it," said James Carlson, who telephoned Perelman with the news he had won the Millennium Prize awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Mass.

Carlson said he wasn't too surprised by the apparent lack of interest from Perelman, a reclusive genius who has a history of refusing big prizes.

In 2006, Perelman made headlines when he stayed away from the ceremony in Madrid where he was supposed to get a Fields Medal, often called the Nobel prize of mathematics. He remained at home in St. Petersburg instead.



I think they should just hold the money for him – put it in a trust fund of some sort that he could tap into when he wanted/needed it.