Some Links

Lee Smolin’s forthcoming book “The Trouble With Physics” has a web-site.

There’s a new group blog focusing on n-categories, The n-Category Cafe, which will be run by John Baez, David Corfield and Urs Schreiber. It looks like Urs will basically be moving operations from The String Theory Coffee Table to this new blog.

The August issue of Symmetry is out. Lots and lots of articles about the LHC.

For the past week and a half Fermilab has been hosting a summer school on physics at Hadron Colliders. The talks are available here, and many are quite interesting. For example, history buffs should look at the talks on the top discovery by Tollefson and Varnes, and there’s a nice survey talk by Chris Hill in which he emphasizes the role of symmetries. Hill notes that unification of couplings in the MSSM doesn’t quite work, off by 3 sigma in the prediction of the strong coupling constant. He describes supersymmetry as “our best operational hypothesis” but believes that “It (probably) won’t be the MSSM!!!”.

The Telegraph seems to have tracked down Perelman and has an article about him entitled World’s top maths genius jobless and living with mother. It claims that Perelman is not going to the ICM, where it is assumed he will be awarded the Fields medal, because he can’t afford the trip. It also claims that in 2003 he was not re-elected to the Steklov institute and forced to leave. I find lots of things in the article hard to believe, remarkable if they’re true.

The rumor is that this week’s New Yorker, on the newstands tomorrow, will have a long article by Sylvia Nasar (author of the Nash biography, “A Beautiful Mind”) about the Poincare Conjecture and Perelman’s proof.

Last month the IHES held a conference on motives. Many lectures and references are now available here.

The IHES web-site also has a preprint of a new survey article by Pierre Cartier entitled A primer on Hopf algebras.

This summer’s Park City program was on the topic of Low Dimensional Topology. Some lecture notes are available here. These include notes taken by Gabriel Drummond-Cole, who also has lots of other notes from interesting talks and lecture courses.

Update: The New Yorker article, by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber, is called “Manifold Destiny” and is in this week’s issue, but not available on-line.

The ICM is starting tomorrow, with video of talks available here. There seem to be four lecture slots scheduled for lectures by Fields Medalists, I’m deeply embarassed that I still haven’t heard reliable rumors about who they all are. There have been solid rumors identifying Tao and Perelman, of the less solid ones retailed here, Bhargava sounds to me the most plausible. I guess we’ll know soon….

Update: The New Yorker article is now available on-line.

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47 Responses to Some Links

  1. anonymous says:

    Some of the morning lectures at the IHES school have been recorded on video, and that includes the lectures of Kontsevich. Perhaps one could get hold of them if there’s an interest.

  2. Who says:

    wasn’t the title “A Beautiful Mind”?

  3. QWERTY says:


  4. An interested reader says:

    Yes it was called a beautiful mind.

    I enjoyed your book, now I want to enjoy the controversy: wouldn’t it be a good idea to group the links to all the reviews of Not Even Wrong that you know of, to help interested readers?

  5. woit says:

    Thanks Who, I thought there was something wrong with that when I wrote it, but was in a hurry. Fixed now.

    Interested reader,

    Putting together a page with links to all the reviews I know about is on my to do list, should get to it soon.

  6. Chris W. says:

    The book: A Beautiful Mind (ISBN 0743224574)

    The New Yorker’s table of contents for 8/21 shows no sign of an article by Sylvia Nasar.

  7. woit says:

    Chris W.

    That’s last week’s issue, this week’s will have a cover date of 8/28.

  8. Mnev says:

    Yes, Sylvia Nasar was here in SPb in june.

  9. Who says:

    Yes, Sylvia Nasar was here in SPb in june.

    wow. excuse my naive enthusiasm. She was already onto the story, the editors at NYorker had probably already OK’d the idea and she was already in Saint Petersburg doing the research. In June.

    Let’s hope for the best, as a piece of writing.

    Mnev congratulations on being a fellowcitizen of so many outstanding poets and mathematicians, men and women alike. SPb = great town

  10. Mnev says:

    Thanks. I agree. Nobody knows strings here.

  11. Who says:

    Nobody knows strings here.

    This is fortunate.
    They have the chance to invent something quite different.

  12. Who says:

    The anti-science writer who reviewed the anti-science books is George Johnson who has a picture of his gravestone
    posted on his website

    thx Chris

  13. TheGraduate says:

    The review in Scientific American says “10500 perfectly good M theories” which I immediately thought was a manageable number but It’s actually 10^500 right?

    Also, the article in the New Yorker seems to be called “Manifold Destiny: Who really solved the Poncairé Conjecture?” by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber.

  14. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

    The Telegraph seems to have tracked down Perelman and has an article about him entitled World’s top maths genius jobless and living with mother.

    Once again, Perelman has raised the bar for mathematicians everywhere.

  15. Who says:

    [b]Once again, Perelman has raised the bar for mathematicians everywhere.[/b]
    This is without question the silliest thing that has ever been said in Peter Woit’s blog since its inception. We must be careful!
    Let us make a serious effort to get on topic, whatever the topic is, so that Peter does not shut down the thread!

  16. DMS says:

    Actually, Erdos was also remarkably similar to Perelman in one sense; he had no money or interest in material wealth. Erdos had no home(lived out of a suitcase) or money, and survived on the goodwill of fellow mathematicians(particularly R Graham). He was also rather uninterested in fame. He should have received the Fields with Selberg or the elementary proof of the Prime Number theorem(among many other things).

    But then again, history will view Erdos as being a far greater mathematician than Selberg…

    I hope the mathematical community makes sure that Perelman has money and equipment(i.e, pen, paper, laptop, internet access) to support himself and his mathematical work.

  17. anon says:

    Sabine has confirmed the first application of string at the Backreaction blog:

    I apologise to Lubos Motl. String does inspire useful technological innovations, despite being useless in science.

  18. For the record, John Forbes Nash, Jr., is still doing novel and interesting research. I spoke with him repeatedly and at length at the 6th International Conference on Complex Systems, and chaired two sessions that he attended.

    As to the audience reaction, and subsequent press coverage of ad hominem attacks in fundamental physics, see:

    Science collides with a Big Bang
    An argument is raging between physicists on how the universe began, writes Jonathan Leake

  19. Chris W. says:

    Nasar and Gruber’s article is now in the TOC for the print magazine, but is not available online unfortunately.

  20. MathPhys says:

    Perelman and Tao are Field medalists, but who are the other two?

  21. Thomas Larsson says:

    [Hill] describes supersymmetry as “our best operational hypothesis” but believes that “It (probably) won’t be the MSSM!!!”.

    Does this mean that there is growing consensus that the MSSM is wrong? If so, what does it mean for SUSY as a solution to the hierarchy problem, which was the main reason for believing in SUSY in the first place?

  22. Prof. Manjul Bhargava

    Ph.D. Princeton University 2001
    Dissertation: Higher Composition Laws
    Advisor: Andrew Wiles

    Manjul Bhargava: An Artist of Music and Math

    Music, Math… “One of my favorite activities is listening to Indian classical music, a most wonderful and multidimensional form of music which unfortunately still has not fully yet made its way to the West. I also enjoy playing the tabla, the most common of the Indian percussion instruments…”

    What a relief. Imagine if he played stringed instruments, theoretically…

  23. ICM News says:

    The 2006 Fields Medalists are:

    1) Andrei Okounkov (Princeton University),
    CITATION: “For his contributions bridging probability, representation theory and algebraic geometry”,

    2) Grigori Perelman (formerly of Steklov Institute of Mathematics, St. Petersburg)
    CITATION: “For his contributions to geometry and his revolutionary insights into the analytical and geometric structure of the Ricci flow”,

    3) Terence Tao (University of California, Los Angeles),
    CITATION: “For his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory”, and

    4) Wendelin Werner (Université de Paris-Sud, Orsay),
    CITATION: “For his contributions to the development of stochastic Loewner evolution, the geometry of two-dimensional Brownian motion, and conformal field theory”.

    2006 Nevanlinna Prize goes to Jon Kleinberg (Cornell University).

    The first awardee of the Gauss Prize is Kiyoshi Itô (formerly of University of Kyoto, now retired).

    Well done all!

  24. Four Are Given Highest Honor in Mathematics
    Courtesy of International Congress for Mathematicians

    Terence Tao, a native of Australia, is one of the youngest Fields Medal winners ever at age 31.

    Grigory Perelman is the most prominent of the medalists, not only because the Poincaré conjecture had ranked among the most heralded unsolved math problems, but also because of his reclusive personality.
    Courtesy of International Congress for Mathematicians

    Wendelin Werner, top, works on problems at the intersection of mathematics and physics. Andrei Okounkov, bottom, was honored “for his contributions bridging probability, representation theory and algebraic geometry.”

    But Dr. Perelman refused to accept the medal, as he has other honors, and he did not attend the ceremonies at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid.

    Sir John Ball, president of the International Mathematical Union, which is holding the conference, told The Associated Press that he did not think Dr. Perelman’s decision to turn down the award was intended as a snub. “I am sure he did not mean it that way,” he said.

    The Fields Medal, often described as mathematics’ equivalent to the Nobel Prize, is given every four years, and several can be awarded at once. Three other professors of mathematics were awarded Fields Medals this year: Andrei Okounkov of Princeton; Terence Tao of University of California, Los Angeles; and Wendelin Werner of the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay.

    Dr. Perelman, 40, is known not only for his work on the Poincaré conjecture, among the most heralded unsolved math problems, but also because he has declined previous mathematical prizes and has turned down job offers from Princeton, Stanford and other universities. He has said he wants no part of $1 million that the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass. has offered for the first published proof of the conjecture.

    Beginning in 2002, Dr. Perelman, then at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, published a series of papers on the Internet and gave lectures at several American universities describing how he had overcome a roadblock in the proof of the Poincaré conjecture.

    The conjecture, devised by Henri Poincaré in 1904, essentially says that the only shape that has no holes and fits within a finite space is a sphere. That is certainly true looking at two-dimensional surfaces in the everyday three-dimensional world, but the conjecture says the same is true for three-dimensional surfaces embedded in four dimensions.

    Dr. Perelman solved a difficult problem that other mathematicians had encountered when trying to prove the conjecture, using a technique called Ricci flow that smoothes out bumps in a surface and transforms it into a simpler form.

    Dr. Okounkov, born in 1969 in Moscow, was recognized for work that tied together different fields of mathematics that had seemed unrelated. “This is the striking feature of Okounkovs’s work, finding unexpected links,” said Enrico Arbarello, a professor of geometry at the University of Rome in Italy.

    Dr. Okounkov’s work has found use in describing the changing surfaces of melting crystals. The boundary between melted and non-melted is created randomly, but the random process inevitably produces a border in the shape of a heart.

    Dr. Tao, a native of Australia and one of the youngest Fields Medal winners ever at age 31, has worked in several different fields, producing significant advances in the understanding of prime numbers, techniques that might lead to simplifying the equations of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the equations of quantum mechanics that describe how light bounces around in a fiber optic cable.

    Dr. Werner, born in Germany in 1968, has also worked at the intersection of mathematics and physics, describing phenomena like percolation and shapes produced by the random paths of Brownian motion.

    The medal was conceived by John Charles Fields, a Canadian mathematician, “in recognition of work already done and as an encouragement for further achievements on the part of the recipient.”

    Since 1936, when the medal was first awarded, judges have interpreted the terms of Dr. Fields’s trust fund to mean that the award should usually be limited to mathematicians 40 years old or younger.

  25. ldm says:

    “Jobless and living with mother” …. the non Russian journalist (Nadejda probably is innocent) is not really giving us an accurate picture here.

    To put this in perspective for the western readers…

    Living with parents in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) is fairly normal and even if he had a regular job, living at home would still not be a big deal.

    Second…After Perestroika, the government gave the citzens their apartments (some younger FSU citizens are not aware of this fact, it would seem) …so it is very possible his mother has no mortage expense. Walking or taking the subway (metro) is normal mode of transportation, so no car payment either…Medical care is very good, and inexpensive — so no medical bills to speak of as in the west.

    Granted the Russian pension is not much, but the economics is not quite the same as in the west.

    Therefore, for Perelman to live at home, with his mother, does not in any way compare, or have the same stigma, as a similar situation in the west.

  26. TheGraduate says:

    I just read the article in the New Yorker. Who knew the situation was this dramatic?

    The most important idea in the article seems to be the argument that Dr Shing-Tung Yau of Calabi-Yau fame is stealing people’s credit. I don’t know if that is true but that seems to be the definitive verdict of the article.

    In case, the implications of the article were too subtle, they have supplemented with a full page graphic of Yau stealing the Fields Medal from Perelman’s chest.

    It is a well written essay. I do not know in what repects Gruber contributed but I enjoy Nasar’s writing. I can not say whether the reporting is accurate or not. I did think in passing that they had not defined a manifold but I assume most mathematical readers would be familiar with this term.

    Perelman is definitely portrayed in a positive light: more or less normal except for being extremely hard working, honest, open and humble and of course, mathematically brilliant.

    The details about Yau seem almost tangential. The angle of Yau seems to have been inserted by the author’s themselves rather than emerging naturally from the interview with Perelman. Perelman himself, as represented in the text, expresses indifference to what Yau may or may not have done.

  27. “The most important idea in the article seems to be the argument that Dr Shing-Tung Yau of Calabi-Yau fame is stealing people’s credit. ”

    What a shocking revelation. I’m sure nobody ever dreamed of such a thing before. STY’s reputation for being self-effacing is famous throughout the length and breadth of Nagorno-Karabakh.

  28. GeomGeek says:

    “The details about Yau seem almost tangential. The angle of Yau seems to have been inserted by the author’s themselves rather than emerging naturally from the interview with Perelman. Perelman himself, as represented in the text, expresses indifference to what Yau may or may not have done.”

    sure, especially the bit about Yau giving three days to the editors of the AJM to comment on the Cao-Zhu paper without showing the paper

    not to mention the story with the 105%

  29. TheGraduate says:

    There is also an article in Notices that I had not seen before but it touches on similar issues to the New Yorker article .

    “Conjectures No More? Consensus Forming on the Proof of the Poincaré and Geometrization Conjectures” by Allyn Jackson
    (It’s the first link.)

    It says in part “Some of the news articles were translated into English and posted on the Web. In those articles, the achievements of Cao and Zhu, both of whom are Chinese, are emphasized, while the achievements of Perelman are mentioned in a less prominent way. In one story from the Xinhua news agency, which appeared on June 21, 2006, the name of Perelman does not even appear.”

    It also says that “Yau said that he was misquoted in some of the media accounts and does not endorse what is said there.”

    They also provide a link to a website to some slides purportedly used by Yau in a lecture. They don’t say what they want you to look at but I found the following quote.

    “In Perelman’s work, many key ideas of the proofs are sketched or outlined, but complete details of the proofs are often missing. The recent paper of Cao-Zhu which was submitted to The Asian Journal of Mathematics in 2005 gives the first complete and detailed account of the proof of the Poincaré conjecture and the gemetriziation [sic] conjecture. They substituted several arguments of Perelman by new approaches based on their studies.” — Yau

  30. MathChina says:

    This email has been sent to Ms. Nasar and the Now Yorker.

    Dear Ms. Nasar:

    As a mathematician who was born in China, I am deeply offended by your article with Mr. Gruber in the recent issue of the New Yorker. Your narrative plays to the stereotype that mathematicians of Chinese heritage are “technical” but not “original”.

    (1) In the first sentence of your article, you identified Professor Yau as “the Chinese mathematician”. In fact: Yau is a U. S. citizen. To make my point simple: Don’t you agree that it oddly emphasizes your cultural heritage if you are called “the Bavarian journalist and
    writer”? (I noticed that you were listed as an American journalist and writer born in Bavaria in the Wikipedia.)

    (2) In your narrative of the works that led to Yau’s Fields medal, you misrepresented the facts and downplayed the originality of Yau’s contribution,” ‘He was not so much thinking up some original way of looking at a subject but solving extremely hard technical problems that at the time only he could solve, by sheer intellect and force of will,’ Phillip Griffiths, a geometer and a former director of the Institute for Advanced Study, said”.

    (3) Even in your narrative of Chern, there is no mention of any of his original work or idea.

    (4) In Yau’s seminar, “[e]ach student was assigned a recently published proof and asked to reconstruct it, fixing any errors and filling in gaps”. As for the controversy surrounding
    Givental’s work, “[o]ccasionally, the difference between a mathematical gap and a gap in exposition can be hard to discern. On at least one occasion, Yau and his students [Bong
    Lian and Kefeng Liu] have seemed to confuse the two, making claims of originality that other mathematicians
    believe are unwarranted.” You were adamant that Professor Givental’s work is complete and correct. A simple search in MathSciNet’s review of Givental’s paper should have given you a different perspective.

    (5) In your narrative of Professor Tian’s reaction to Yau’s allegations, you again emphasized Tian’s Chinese heritage: “I [Tian] have deep roots in Chinese culture. A teacher is a teacher. There is respect. It is very hard for me to think of anything to do.”

    (6) “Yau’s entrepreneurial drive extended to collaborations with colleagues and students, and, in addition to conducting his own research, he began organizing seminars. He frequently allied
    himself with brilliantly inventive mathematicians, including Richard Schoen and William Meeks.” Yau has many students from China; some of them are now professors in top universities in this
    country. Of course, none of them are supposed to be “inventive”, not even “Yau’s most successful student” Tian. I also question the connotation of “entrepreneurial”.

    (7) It is now clear that you are determined to prove your point. “Mathematicians familiar with Perelman’s proof disputed the idea that Zhu and Cao had contributed significant new approaches to the Poincaré. ‘Perelman already did it and what he did was complete and correct,’ John Morgan said. ‘I don’t see
    that they did anything different.'” ” ‘It is not clear to me what new contribution did they [Cao and Zhu] make,’ he [Perelman] said. ‘Apparently, Zhu did not quite understand the argument and reworked it.'”

    I could have listed a lot more; but I think these are sufficient to illustrate my point. Here is a challenge to you, Ms. Nasar:
    List the sentences in your long article that associate Chinese/Chinese-American mathematicians with “originality” and
    likewise those that separate them from “technicality”.

    I have enjoyed tremendously reading your beautifully written “A beautiful mind”. It was a moving and inspirational story.
    I am now then truly disappointed and horrified by this article of yours in the New Yorker, a magazine that is supposed to
    represent the best of intelligentsia. Personal vendettas lead us nowhere. Your article is hugely biased. It is a disservice to the
    mathematical community as a whole; it irreparably and unnecessarily damages Yau’s reputation; it does not help Tian; and most importantly, it plays to the false and harmful stereotypes of mathematicians of certain cultures.

    One internet chatter, apparently a mathematician/student of Chinese origin, reported that one of his colleagues placed the
    cartoon in your article on the office door. The chatter stated that he felt “ashamed” when passing by the colleague’s office.

    For all the harms that have occurred, I believe, at the minimum, a public apology from you and the New Yorker to all is warranted.

    Sincerely yours,

    A mathematician born in China

  31. gunpowder&noodles says:

    This email has been sent to Nasar and the NEW Yorker:

    Dear Ms Nasar: thank you for finally exposing the truth about this truly shameful and disgusting episode. At last Perelman will get all of the credit that is his due, in no small measure due to your public airing of the appalling efforts on the part of certain people to prove their superiority by means of every dirty trick in the book.

  32. Lau says:

    Dr. Nasar, your article is fair and unbiased. No need to apologize to idiots like that. They are mad because you are famous and is an authority in journalism and what you say has some type of impact! I, as a Chinese, feel that you are brave enough to challenge such an authority in mathematics who does not treat other fairly and attacks his rivals unnecessarily. THANK YOU!!! You are an unbiased person!! The righteous Chinese scientists salute to you!

  33. CalabiYauManifold says:

    “TheGraduate Says:
    August 23rd, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    I just read the article in the New Yorker. Who knew the situation was this dramatic?

    The most important idea in the article seems to be the argument that Dr Shing-Tung Yau of Calabi-Yau fame is stealing people’s credit. I don’t know if that is true but that seems to be the definitive verdict of the article.

    In case, the implications of the article were too subtle, they have supplemented with a full page graphic of Yau stealing the Fields Medal from Perelman’s chest.

    It is a well written essay. I do not know in what repects Gruber contributed but I enjoy Nasar’s writing. I can not say whether the reporting is accurate or not. I did think in passing that they had not defined a manifold but I assume most mathematical readers would be familiar with this term.

    Perelman is definitely portrayed in a positive light: more or less normal except for being extremely hard working, honest, open and humble and of course, mathematically brilliant.

    The details about Yau seem almost tangential. The angle of Yau seems to have been inserted by the author’s themselves rather than emerging naturally from the interview with Perelman. Perelman himself, as represented in the text, expresses indifference to what Yau may or may not have done. ”

    The mentioned work by French mathematician is done by Aubin, it is not enough strong to be extended to solve Calabi conjecture. Yau’s result is totally original and has opened a new field for many others.

    This article is truely beautifully written, but I’m suspicious that it is too one-sided. I’m interested to know the whole truth behind it.

  34. TheGraduate says:

    Some people had been saying that the article was meant to show Yau as a bad guy but I think the title might give more of a clue as to what the authors were intending.

    They entitled the piece ‘Manifold Destiny’ which is a play on words and refers to the doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ ie US expansionism.

    I suspect the authors were meaning to talk about Chinese expansionism. I think this makes more sense because the audience of the New Yorker would probably find something like that more interesting than petty squabbles in mathematics.

    I think they emphasized Yau as Chinese because in their view, he is using the mathematical achievement as another way to give China recognition on the global stage.

  35. Ng says:

    If you want to know the whole truth, you have to ask S.S. Chern and his students who know Yau well as well as all the experts in the field to speak fairly and unbaisedly!!! Which is impossible.

  36. MathLover says:

    No dubt that Perelman has some admirable personalities. He is a hero of his own. Do we need a villain in contrast in this drama? I think the New Yorker’s article is manipulative. The authors logic goes like:

    1. Perelman is a hero
    2. Hamilton and Yau are too slow in their own program and are unwilling to learn from Perelman
    3. Yau is a bad guy trying to steal the credit from Perelman for his own students

    The article may convey point 1 to a more general public and the writting is beautiful there. But I don’t buy their points 2 and 3. As for 2, the math community as a whole has been relectant to declare Perelman’s victory and slow to learn from Perelman. They only officially confirm Perelman’s solution of Poincare conjecture at this ICM. No final verdict about Thurston’s geometrization conjecture yet. Moreover, no significant new results come out of Perelman’s ideas from other mathematicians. I hope the 3 manuscripts will change the situation.

    As for Yau’s part I suspect the authors description is leant towards his opponents. The quotes of other math professors are unbelievably uni-directional: destructive to Yau. There must be a master plan behind this game. The controversy between Yau and Tian is another drama worth. Yau against his own student, because he feels obligated to fight corruption in academic world of China.

    [Note: I’ve deleted the last part of this comment, which was a personal attack on Tian]

  37. woit says:


    I’ve deleted quite a few personal attacks on Yau that were posted here, some from the same person using different names. I’ve also deleted the last part of your comment, which is a personal attack on Tian.

    Please, do not try and use this blog to carry on the Tian-Yau warfare. I think this is an extremely bad thing for mathematics, and I want no part of it.

  38. MathLover says:


    I respect your decision to delete last part of my post. Thanks a lot for maintaining this blog. What I wanted to add is that we living outside of China have certain obligations to promote universally valid civil values to China, including fight against corruption. Yau has exposed himself in the fore-front of fighting corruptions in academic world of China. He doesn’t deserve such mud slinging from the New Yorker article on his back from the free world! I’m the same opinion that the authors have over done their spin, see Jeremy’s post:

  39. Dear Peter:

    I have been following this blog since late June after the many news report in China about he Cao-Zhu paper, because I wanted to get some insight from the mathematicians abroad. I’m not in mathematics, but I have been inerested in history and sociology of science for years. For your information, I got my Ph.D in chemisry from Columbia, and now I’m a chemistry professor at Beijing.

    Here I’d like to share with you of some first-hand information about the Chinese coverage of the Yau press conference on June 3, 2006, and the controversial over it.

    My wife is the reporter at the Sciencetime at Beijing who was one of the few reporters at the press conference given by Professor S. T. Yau on June 3, 2006. She has all the original materials including the press release given to them by Professor Yau on June 3, and the recording of the press conference.

    If people read those reports on the ScienceTimes, he would agree that the reports by my wife and her colleagues at the ScienceTimes have been the most truthful, fair and authorative on the whole affair so far. If these articles have been availabe in English, many controversy can be easily clarified. Unfortunaely, these reports have generally not been picked up by most people. (Bad news travels fast.)

    Since we learned the New Yorker Magazine (I used to be a subscriber of the NYM when I was a New Yorker) article by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber, my wife and I were both stunned by the untrutful accounts of many of the events. The account in the NYM article about the media coverage in China only picked up some obviously controversial reports, but never really did serious research on the whole thing. I have to say it is absolutely bad jounalism, and is an indication of lack of professionalism.

    Here are some things I may help to clarify.

    1. About the contrversy around the credit for solving the Ponicare Conjecture.

    The Xinhua News Agency first reported on June 4 that Professor Yang Le told the reporter a division of 50%+25%+30% credit between Hmilton, Perelman and Chinese Scienctits. The news is here: (in Chinese)

    However, on June 9, the same reporter of the Xinhua News Agency
    wrote another news in which Yang Le specificly emphasized that he was not an expert in the field to make such judgment and that he was against any attempt to make such judgment. The news is here: (in Chinese)

    Why there were such two completely opposite reports by the same reporter from the Xinhua?

    The truth is that before the first news was wrote, Professor Yang Le was not interviewed by the reporter. And after Professor Yang Le’s protest about report to the XinHua reporter, the Xinhua reporter offered in order not to retract the first report he was willing to make a real interview with him in exchange. Believe or not, such unprofessional practice sounds strange, but it does really happen in China. I do not know how such strange number was reached at the beginning, but the truth was that Professor Yang Le was not intviewed by the Xinhua reporter before the interview for the second report.

    Unfortunately, this second report has never been noticed. It is fine for ordinary people not to notice it, but it is not acceptable for anybody who is trying to do investigative journalism.

    From the recording of the press conference, where 8 reporters from five Chinese media, including the reporter from the XinHua News agency, were pesented, some reporter asked Professor Yau whether Cao-Zhu’s paper can claim all the credit, and Professor Yau specificly said that Hamilton and Perelman’s contributions were the most important, Cao-Zhu’s paper just presented the complete proof and closed the case, and the proof of the Poincare Conjecture was a group effort. There was no mentioning of the division of credit in the press conference. Professor Yang Le was not present at the press conference.

    After the press coference, my wife and one of her colleague at the Sciencetimes had an exclusive interview face to face with Professor Yang Le in the same day. There was no such mentioning of percentage in that interview.

    When first saw the controversial about the strange 105% number, I myself had the impression that I had read it also from my wife’s report in he Sciencetimes. I even joked her for not being able to make the percentage correct. My wife was angry at me for the wrong impression and she asked me to read all the reports in the Sciencetimes and to find whether there was such report of the moronic percentage. The truth is that there was no such report found in their reports, and also no such thing in the recordings as wellas in the first-hand notes she had, including in the press conference, the inteview with Professr Yang Le on June 3, 2006, and another exclusive interview of the Siencetimes with Professor Yau on June 2 of 2006.

    I then spent some time a few days ago on the inernet to do my own research on the 30% credit story. Such research should have been done by Ms. Nasar and her associates. I have to say after going through all this materials, I learned how wrong and the New Yorker article was.

    I have aways been telling my wife how unprofessional many of the reporters in China are, and how unfortunate that I have to live with this fact. But I have never expected that people like Professor Nasar can be so unprofessinal in writng the article in the New Yorker magazine.

    My wife was a fan of Nasar’s book on Nash, A Beautiul Mind. She has been proud of being assciated with Columbia (where I got my Ph.D), for the prestigious Journalism School and or having Mrs. Naser as her idol. As a real scientist myself and somebody who had read books on the game theory in my teens, I told her years ago that I actually did not like very much the book and the movie. She did not understand why.

    Now she finally understand me.

    I wondered why Mrs. Nasar did not even try to get any first-hand account of many of the events in China by contacting her peer
    journalists before formulating her case. How can people trust her other stories? Was she writng an investigating report or a fiction?

    2. Mrs. Nasar and Professor Yang Le

    My wife told me that Mrs. Nasar actually met Professor YangLe at the String Theory Conference at Beijing in late June. There was even news photos caught them in the same picture. Professor YangLe said that they briefly chattd or greeted each other there. But Mrs. Nasar never confirmd the 30% percentage story with him.

    This is truly the strangest thing for any investigating reporting.

    3. About the news coverage in China on the Poincare Conjecture.

    Undoubtedly there alwas have serious problms in these reports. As I mentioned above, these problem can only be attributed to the status of lack of professionalism of the reporers, especially in science reporting.

    However, for obvious reasons, I do not want to blame the reporters for this situation in China. To understand all these, probably Mrs. Nasar can spend more time in China and try to write an real investigative report on it.

    For whatever origin of this situation, to use such unreliable sources of media reports in China before making serious investigtin and to make wild accusations against Professor S. T. Yau is totally untrustworthy and misleading.

    4. What I leaned about Professor S. T. Yau?

    I have heard many people gossiping about Professor S. T. Yau’s personality before. As a chemist, I had no interest in it. I’d rather pay more attention to the personaities of the people in my own field than in mathematics. After listening to hours of the recordings of him, I have to say that it is definitely not possible that he is the villain as depicted in the New Yorker Magazine. I have to say that he fits perfectly as a great person and a great scientist. These people who have been wildly attacking him are far from the truth and are definitly making a fool of themselves.

    I believe that people who care will get the truth of the story eventually. I’m glad that this blog is a place which has provided a excellent platform for discussing it.

    In the end, I’d like to suggest people to use their commonsense and to try to find of the facts before making their own judgment on this matter. Finding out the truth is not so difficult. It is unfortunate that some people never try.

    Sincerely yours,

    Columbia Chemist

  40. cl says:

    I have read both news items provided by the post. I found the post to be misleading. The description of the first is correct. But in the second one, published on June. 9th. what Prof. Yang Le said is that assigning percentage is not “completely accurate, I don’t agree with that, either. However, Chinese scientists did make outstanding contributions.” He never said that he is not an expert in the field to make judgement, instead, he said, “My research eare is complex analysis, but I know Yau, Cao and Zhu very well.” He went on to say that that the contribution from U.S., Russia and China are “all extremely important, without any of them, the thoery won’t be complete”. Finally, he conclude that ” in the process of resoling the conjecture, Prof. Yau provided ideas and advice, other people(include Hamilton, Perelman, Cao and Zhu) used Yau’s important results, along with other imporatnt theoy in geometric analysis, a field Yau established, to make the breakthrough.

    Another fact not being mentioned by either the New Yorker and Columbia Chemist is that, on June. 7th, the ministry of Education of China, sent an official congratulatory letter to Zhu’s university for resolving Poincare conjecture. It represents the official position of the Chinese government, not just “lack of profesionism of reporters.”

    I also like to mention that in an 08/18 article on ScienceTimes, its journalist recalled that they obtained a press release on June 03, cleared stated that R. Hamilton obtained “outstanding and fundamental” results, Perelman provides “key ideas”, but Cao and Zhu “completely resolve” the Poincare conjecture.

    Unlike Ms. Nasar, I am a Chinese mathematician, so I understand Chinese very well. I also lived in mainland China for more than twenty years, so I understand the meaning and process behind a congratulatory letter from the ministry of education. I admire Yau’s achievement in mathematics immensely. He is one of the greatest methematician of this centry. I consult his book and papers very frequently in my research. But on this matter, I do believe that what he did is wrong. As a great scientist, for whom seeking truth should be one’s life time devotion, he should apologize.

  41. Fact will not mislead people. Partial fact will.

    People used to think that the Xinhua News Agency is the official news agency of the Chinese government, and so its news release must be some kind of official statement. Now people can know the process of how its reports were made, so people can be careful when reading the news.

    I also found in one newspaper here there was an exclusive conversation between Professor Yau and the reporter. However, there was no such exclusive interview, and the report was a collage of information gethered from other media reports.

    One important fact is that I do not see where is the “official position of the Chinese government” on Cao-Zhu’s paper. I knew of the so-called congratulatory letter to Zhu’s University from the departmrent of the education from the media reports. Such congratulations letters have been sent to different people all the time in China.

    cl should have mentioned that not only the Department of Education, but also the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the Academy of Mathematics and Systen Sciences under CAS all sent brief congratulation letters to Zhongshan University the same time. All the letters started with the sentence: “We are all glad to hear that ….”.

    See here,

    Such things usually happen when these agencies learned the news of a high profile paper is published. I have to say that this practice is silly, and the content can not be taken as any official statement. Seriously, such congratulation letters just like the letters one would receive when his family has a new born son. Why not cl try to get all this kind of letters for things in different disciplines together and show them to the internetional colleagues?

    I think my simple intention is to provide facts on the following, and to show why people should not use the inconsistent news reportings to make strong judgment, especially for the investigative report in the New Yorker magazine.

    1. Whether Professor Yang Le said anything about the moronic percentage which had been attributed to him?

    2. What did Professor Yau actually do or say in his own words?

    I do not see anything wrong when somebody so heavily involved claim some credit for it. Whether it is excessive is the issue and also a matter of opinion. Being a scientist myself and a reader of Robert Merton’s works, I do not see what Professor Yau had done was very inappropriate, given the facts clarified and the unknown factors fairly weighted. Certainly this does not mean I endorse everything done or said by Professor Yau. I have no interest in it.

    If cl can let usknow when was the last time he actually listened to Professor Yau’s own words, his comments may carry some weight. Otherwise, being a mathematician and also Chinese does not actually help with anything when speculations are drawn from partial words in secondary sources.

    As to what matter Professor Yau should appologize for, I do not see the point from cl’s posting.

    I’m sorry that I will not post here again, unless somebody wants to verify facts I know with me here. Otherwise, it would be funny to see a Chemist frequently running in the Math world.

    Let me repeat:
    Fact will not mislead people. Partial fact will.

    Best regards,

  42. cl says:

    Reply to Columbia Chemist’s post,

    I never posted here before, the only reason I did is that I felt the second news item in your post was mistranslated and permutated. So , in the first paragraph, I just provided correct translation. The two items also led me to the SceinceTimes report in which the original press release, which you mentioned also, was quoted, then I provide a translation in third paragraph. As for the congratulatory letters from the ministry of education, they are not sent to many people all the time. last year, or maybe two years ago, Prof. Wang Xiaoyun from Shangdong University obtained very important results in cryptography, this is probably the most important achievement in mathematics in China during the last two decades, it is widely reported by both Chinease and international media, she never got any congratulatory letters from the ministry of education. I personally never heard Prof. Yau talking about Poincare conjecture. so, I can not comment on what he says.

  43. 2cents says:

    To all the people who are fighting for Tian and Yau, or who want to share the truth,
    It will be nice to show your respect to this place, please bring the Tian-Yau fight or related materials to other related places.
    Do it properly and you will be appreciated by the readers of this blog.

  44. MathLover says:

    I’m also tired reading too many comments that do not shed light on the true background. We will see in the future and in the other place what arguements between Tian’s and Yau’s fans (including one from mine) really hold.

    Here is a very interesting interview Atiyah gave in the realm of ICM2006 preparation bulletin (3rd July 2006):


    Q: After Perelman’s work, can the Poincare conjecture be considered proven?

    A: The work of Perelman on the famous Poincare conjecture is widely admired. But in mathematical questions of this complexity final judgement is suspended until the complete proof has been written down, scrutinized by the mathematical community and accepted. That stage has not yet come.

    Quote end-

    If we are honest, we have to ask ourself, Is Poincare conjecture a theorem now?

    I don’t know what Atiyah thinks now. It’s truly a strange (and maybe even controversial) math history and remarkable ICM for me, the world around Poincare’s conjecture changed in just 2 months.

    Thanks for Peter to maintain this post open.

  45. jeremy says:


    If you ask Atiyah the same question now, he, as any other responsible mathematicians, will probably give you the same answer.

    The world, as far as Poincare conjecture is concerned, has not changed at all, even with the recent media storm. After all the dust settled, the mathematics community will have to do exactly what Atiyah said in his interview. Otherwise, mathematics as we know it will no longer exist. I personally have faith that the final conclusion of a mathematical problem will only be given by the mathematics community, not by the media.

    However, from what has happened in the last two months, we have learnt a great deal about mathematicians. These guys can behave exactly like politicians. Their skill of personal attacking and backstabbing is certainly no worse than the ordinary politicians. They probably played politics and media better than the politicians from their own district. I have to congratulate them for that.

  46. sk says:

    1. In Perelman’s second famous preprint, he said that another paper with the proof of Theorem 7.4 would be given, but it is still not available. There are two versions of Perelman’s Theorem 7.4. One is the strong version with only two conditions, which no proof is available except for Perelman’s “sketch”. The other is a weak version with an additional condition, which might be too weak to apply according to Kleiner & Lott. Actually, Kleiner-Lott and Cao-Zhu did not prove it, they circumvented it.

    What would Perelman reply if he met some experts and they asked for the proof? Note that in April 2003, nobody could fully digest his first two articles. After his return, he posted his third paper devoted entirely to the Poincare Conjecture.

    2. Many people, including an article in “Notices”, criticized the abstract of the Cao-Zhu paper. However, people who read Orwell’s “1984” should know that the phrase “it is the crowning achievement of the Party” is quite common in communist countries. The purpose is to express highest admiration to the Party. In their paper, Cao-Zhu did the same to the Hamilton-Perelman Theory.

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