The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) takes place every four years and is the most important international conference in mathematics. The 2006 ICM will take place next August in Madrid. One thing that happens at each ICM is the announcement of the winners of the Fields Medal. This has traditionally been considered the most prestigious award in mathematics, and the closest analog to a Nobel prize in math, although the recently instituted Abel prize may now compete for this honor. The Fields medal is awarded to between two and four people at each ICM, and recipients must be under the age of 40 on Jan. 1 of the year of the ICM. I have no inside information about who will win this year, but in gossip with mathematicians two names that tend to come up are those of Grigori Perelman (for his work on the Poincare conjecture), and Terence Tao.
The other important thing about the ICM is the list of invited talks. The speakers are carefully chosen and are supposed to be people who have done the most important work in mathematics during the past four years. Looking over the list of speakers gives a good idea of who the most prominent names in the business are, as well as what are the hottest topics. It’s an especially great honor to be chosen as a plenary speaker, and the names of these have been recently announced. The invited speakers in the various sections have also been announced, one section covers mathematical physics.