2006 Fields Medal Winners

The winners of the 2006 Fields Medals are Terence Tao and Grigori Perelman (as widely predicted), also Andrei Okounkov, and Wendelin Werner. For some more information, see the press releases at the ICM site.

Okounkov’s mathematical work has been in the area of representation theory and its links to combinatorics. His work in mathematical physics is well-known, relating random partitions and the statistical mechanics of certain crystals to Gromov-Witten and Seiberg-Witten theory (counting holomorphic curves and instantons). For some nice expository papers of his about this, see here, here, and here.

Wendelin Werner I know little about, his work involves 2d random walks and is related to CFT. There has been a lot of activity recently in this field, and there’s a related program going on this semester at the KITP. A friend wrote to me this morning to speculate that this is the same Wendelin Werner who at age 12 appeared in the film “La Passante du Sans-Souci”.

Update: Luca Trevisan is blogging from the conference.

Today the arXiv servers contain the message ” arXiv.org servers are currently under very heavy load due to demand for Grisha Perelman’s papers, published only as arXiv.org e-prints, which are available below.”

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107 Responses to 2006 Fields Medal Winners

  1. Russian says:

    Dear Peter,

    Please do not be afraid of noise: unless it is “white noise” (I wonder why it is called ‘white’ and if there were political motives involved when giving the name), a noise signal carries useful information; and in the cosmological sense may carry information about other civilizations.

    Also, I do not have any intension to criticize your blog policing policies; you can delete mine on any occurrence you want. Not being able to judge what you have deleted, I can judge what you left.

    I have read an eclectic collection of essays from self-pitying geometry lovers, further called “polishers”. These underappreciated, under-recognized and under-promoted people, some already with advanced degrees, some with such degrees in sight who are spending their lives polishing steps of the scientific ladder the giants are climbing by every day, and watching genius like Perelman running up the ladder in cheap and dirty boots.

    After all, what a misfit this Perelman is. Even Steklov does not like him, not to mention the great news agency Xinhua. Frankly, he does not deserve to solve any important problems because:

    1. He did not work with Yau on that problem, and what is even worse, does not care what Yau thinks or does
    2. Instead of submitting for peer review 3,000 pages of polished proofs he published his solution on a website
    3. He did not go to Marshall Putin and Russian news agencies for the purpose self-aggrandizement
    4. He survives on milk and bread in lieu of green tea and rice
    5. He is a weird guy in the middle of mid-life crisis struggling with mental disorders and long beard
    6. He refused to accept Fields award while thousands upon thousands of “polishers” are ready to die for a glimpse of it.

    Peter, unfortunately you can not avoid unavoidable. There are scientific giants in this world and there are pygmies. There are stars and dwarfs, supernovas and black holes. Some are jealous of others and their jealousy spills over in their writing. It is OK.

  2. Deane says:

    I for one am very grateful to all of the “polishers”, including Morgan-Tian, Kleiner-Lott, Cao-Zhu as well as Ben Chow and his co-authors, who have devoted an enormous amount of effort to writing what are essentially expository books and papers. Although some of them may have embarked on their efforts hoping to find substantial gaps that they could fill and claim some credit, all of them completed their work knowing full well that they were performing a service to the community that would add very little to their own resumes.

    I am also extremely grateful to Perelman for his brilliant contributions to mathematics and for delivering them to the community in a manner that has led to the most and best publicity that mathematics has ever had. I am saddened by Perelman’s decision to withdraw from the mathematical community.

    I am grateful to Yau for far too many things to list here but in particular for helping to create more drama in the Perelman-Poincare story and accentuating the publicity.

    I am grateful to Overbye, Nasar, and Gruber for entertaining and well written stories that introduced the world to real mathematics and real mathematicians. Without them, there’s no way Stephen Colbert would have ever done a piece on the Fields Medal and Poincare conjecture.

    Have some of these people done things that I am dismayed by? You bet. But if I want to express any of them publicly, I will attach my name to what I write. I am disgusted by anonymous postings, both here and elsewhere, attacking one person or another. They are all acts of cowards and therefore not worthy of the slightest attention.

    Deane Yang
    Professor of Mathematics
    Polytechnic University

  3. Deane says:

    Two more:

    I am very grateful to John Ball, the IMU, and the local organizers of the ICM 2006 for an exceptionally well run ICM 2006 (based on reports I’ve gotten. I wasn’t there) and a masterful job of publicizing the ICM and Fields Medals.

    I am very grateful to Yau and David Gu for the graphics they provided for Overbye’s article in the Times. Especially the rabbit, which generated such a strong reaction from many readers, including Stephen Colbert.

    All in all, it’s been a very memorable summer for mathematics. The challenge is figuring how to proceed from here.

  4. TheGraduate says:

    Anonymity has a long history in democracy. Benjamin Franklin used several pseudonyms. http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_wit_name.html

    I mostly appreciate everyone that bothers to post especially if they are willing to respond fairly to challenges to their point of view and they avoid ad hominem … without a good faith basis between the conversationalists, there is really no point to discussing anything.

    However, I sympathize with Peter because I bet he’s probably often held responsible for a lot of what is on here.

    I think that this case of Nasar and Gruber is very interesting and relevant contrast to string theory case. There are some superficial similarities … media attention, academic controversy …

    The media seems to love this stuff lately. For instance, the retraction of papers that happened recently at Columbia. It seemed like some sort of minor dispute between a Professor and his former graduate student and yet it had international coverage.

  5. yd says:

    The New Yorker is reading every letter to the editor as proof that Manifold Destiny has really boosted the sales of the magazine.
    Nasar is happily collecting her royalties. Perelman is quietly working on
    the remaining 6 Conjectures while other mathematicians are
    arguing on the internet. True mathematicians should go
    back to work now.

    BTW, does anyone know where to find the information on the
    reaction from the math world when Beautiful Mind was published?

  6. ks says:

    Instead, as I read on and on, I could not believe how she was turning this beautiful story, this “landmark not just of mathematics, but of human thought” into a petty, racist soap opera.

    Maybe it would be helpfull to overcome this narcistic identification with everything that is chinese? I think this is a very dangerous attitude which reminds me somewhat in the nervous wilhelmian paranoia reigning in pre WWI Germany – a nation which had once been some european “tiger state” with empire ambitions.

    The article is kind of a moral tale about use and misuse of power in the scientific community and about the dedication and drives of opposite characters within. It is written as some kind of tragedy involving two very strong main characters – one might guess that “Woit vs Lubos” would be a nice theme for a comedy. The contemporary western culture is absurd, not tragic.

    The only aspect which is originally chinese in this play and which has to be attributed to its culture is Tians devotion to his teacher Yau.

    PS. Writing a detailed biography of Perelman is likely pointless and would become the real soap ( “why is he living at his mothers flat…” ) Perelman seems to try to live the life of a russian saint. So its about losing some properties of personality and not being obsessed with it.

  7. woit says:

    This topic seems to generate bad behavior here, including people thinking it is a good idea to post comments under multiple pseudonyms or other people’s names. Since the signal to noise ratio is about zero, I’m also shutting off comments here.

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