Some Links

John Baez is encouraging people to join in a campaign to “save New Scientist” from itself, i.e. to get them to stop publishing so much scientific nonsense. This seems to me like a worthwhile goal; maybe if they stop writing articles about crackpots and their “electromagnetic drives”, they’ll also stop promoting bogus over-hyped claims from prominent theorists about cosmology, string theory, etc….

Shing-Tung Yau is fighting back against the New Yorker article “Manifold Destiny”, which was very critical of him, essentially claiming he was trying to steal credit for the proof of the Poincare Conjecture from Perelman. He has hired a lawyer and set-up a web-site. The web-site includes a long letter from his lawyer to the New Yorker, making his case that the article has many inaccuracies. There will be a webcast tomorrow at noon giving his side of this story. Many other blogs and newspapers are discussing this, see here, here, here, here, and here. Unfortunately for Yau, he has strong support from Lubos Motl, who seems a tad obsessed, ranting about how the quality of the New Yorker article:

resembled the style and ethical standards of many jerks in the blogosphere, including a colleague of Sylvia Nasar at Columbia University.

[Note: this has been edited by Lubos, now I’m not a “jerk”, but instead a “despicable writer”]

People who want to engage in bashing of Yau or of his opponents are warned that they should do it elsewhere. Only comment on this here if you have something to say that is substantive and respectful of all parties involved.

Besides Yau’s webcast, tomorrow you can also listen to me on the SETI Radio Network program, broadcast on Discovery Channel Radio. This will also be on their web-site, more info here.

The Harvard Crimson has an article about Nima Arkani-Hamed, who evidently made Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” list for

his research on the idea that our universe may be only one of many “multiverses” and that additional dimensions may exist.

(many “multiverses”???) Arkani Hamed promotes the anthropic landscape and split supersymmetry as a test for it:

He recently proposed a model for new physics, called split supersymmetry—which theorizes that half of all particles in the universe have partner particles. He said that if the results of the LHC experiment reveal split supersymmetry, “it would be a tremendous push in the direction of a multiverse.”

“Right now a lot of people are on the fence,” about the theory of a multiverse, Arkani-Hamed said. “I think if the LHC sees split super symmetry it’s over.”

Also on the multiverse front, Gibbons and Turok have a new paper out on The Measure Problem in Cosmology. They claim to have a way of determining a measure on the “multiverse”. Only problem is that with their measure, the probability of having inflation work out the way it is supposed to is about e-180.

Update: Another radio appearance today, on the program This Week in Science.

Update: To view today’s webcast, go to, get your software working, and enter room 150144. I’ll be skipping this myself, partly because I’ll be in a faculty meeting.

Update: If you want to read a lot of incredibly ill-informed and worthless comments on the Yau story, there’s always Slashdot.

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103 Responses to Some Links

  1. Chris Oakley says:

    I think that Georgi has got it right here. Arkani-Hamed’s work on split supersymmetry is just as important as his research on large extra dimensions.

  2. Me says:

    « Hilbert nearly beat Einstein to his Lagrangian for GR, or maybe he did find it a little before Einstein.»

    Yes, Hilbert got the action first.

  3. John says:

    I can’t help being impressed by Einstein’s note to Hilbert which is conciliatory without giving up the point at issue:

    “There has been a certain resentment between us, the cause of which I do not want analyze any further. I have fought against the feeling of bitterness associated with it, and with complete success. I again think of you with undiminished kindness and I ask you to attempt the same with me. It is objectively a pity if two guys that have somewhat liberated themselves from this shabby world are not giving pleasure to each other.” (from Corry, Renn & Stachel, Science, 1998)

  4. DMS says:

    As someone with no dog in this fight(Yau-Nasar), I must say that the mathematical community does not looking good.

    Sure, there are always fights over credit in all areas, as in physics. At least in physics, they come out openly and say it(like Gell-Mann and Feynman), rather than say things behind someone’s back(and maybe disown it later, if one accepts the New Yorker version).

    And, as Mathlover says, if Perelman’s papers were so clear and complete, why did others bother writing much longer papers to “explain” it—simply give Perelman the half million(other half to Hamilton).

  5. Peter Woit says:


    Nobody is claiming Perelman’s papers were “clear”, as for “complete”, the question is just whether they contained all the ideas necessary for an expert to work out the details of a proof, without having to do major original work and come up with new ideas themself.

    The Clay foundation has specific rules about what one needs to do to claim the million dollars. A refereed paper, in a major journal, not necessarily by the person who came up with the idea of the proof, is part of the requirement. Perelman’s preprints definitely didn’t qualify. The two contenders for the required paper would be Cao-Zhu and Morgan-Tian. It’s up to the Clay panel to decide if those who wrote up the proof did original work of a sort that deserves part of the $1 million. In this case I’d be surprised if they decide to give any of the money to either Cao-Zhu or Morgan-Tian.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Peter, members of the Clay panel have already indicated that they may waive the requirement of refereed papers in Perelman’s case, or at least that’s what I heard from second-hand but reputable sources at the ICM.

  7. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks Anonymous,

    I was under the impression that Clay was refereeing and publishing the Morgan-Tian manuscript precisely so that there would be an unambiguous satisfaction of the refereed paper requirement, and that they were in no hurry to deal with the question of what to do about the million dollars, quite happy to have a couple years to let the dust settle. But, maybe they do want to get this over with…

  8. TheGraduate says:

    Concerning the part of the contraversy which involves corruption in China, I was thinking that it’s not really a big deal if an academic allows himself to be listed as associated with more than one university as long as he is fulfilling whatever requirements are being asked of him.

    I somewhat think of it like having more than one job. It seems to me that if I have more than one job, I’m not necessarily obligated to tell everybody I’m working for that I have more than one job as long as I’m fulfilling all my contractual obligations …

    What is the academic concensus on this sort of behavior?

  9. Peter Woit says:


    It’s not at all unusual for academics to have affiliations and be collecting checks from more than one institution. Sometimes this is part of a specifically negotiated deal a person has with the universities involved, sometimes it is part of the normal situation of someone visiting one place while being on temporary leave or not having to teach at another. Most universities have various specific regulations about what sorts of other paid work their faculty can take on without needing special permission.

    I know nothing at all about the Tian situation that Yau is complaining about, but presumably both Princeton and the people in China know that he is involved with and being paid by another institution and are allowing this. I guess Yau is claiming that Tian’s arrangement in China is unusual and “corrupt”, but I have no idea what it is, and this just seems to be part of the unusually hostile and bitter relationship between the two of them.

  10. Thomas Love says:

    Now if we can just get Physical Review to stop publishing nonsense.

  11. MathLover says:

    What could be the Nasar-Griffiths relationship mentioned on page 5 of Yau’s attorney’s letter? Little facts can be found in internet, including following one:

    In 1995-96 Nasar was a Direct’s Visitor at IAS in Princeton, IAS director at time was Griffiths. There Nasar has done the research and interviews for her book “A Beautiful Mind”.

    Other connections between people around the New Yorker article can be verified in internet as well:

    Shing-Tung Yau, PhD student of S.S. Chern at Berkeley (1971)

    Phillip A. Griffiths, secretary of IMU 1999-2006, director of IAS 1991-2003, math faculty of IAS since 2004; a collaborator and good friend of S.S. Chern; holds an honorary degree from Peking University (Beijing, China)

    James Carlson, the president of Clay Math Institute, was a PhD student of Griffiths at Princeton (1971)

    Gang Tian, graduate student of Peking University, PhD student of Yau at Harvard (1988), faculty member of Princeton

    Deane Yang, PhD student of Griffiths Harvard (1983), professor at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y.

    Prof. Yang was among three readers of New Yorker published letters on September 11 issue. Other two are Prof. Daniel W. Stroock from MIT (quoted in article) and Prof. Solomon Golomb from University of Southern California. Their letters see the link:

    Prof. Yang is also one of commentators using own real name at Peter’s blog.

  12. TheGraduate says:


    Yes, I would not have thought there was very much wrong with that sort of behavior. I guess there could be other complications that I am not qualified to assess: perhaps some rule in Chinese culture or specifically in Chinese academic culture. But to my mind, there is no way to secretly be on the faculty of two universities so it seems like the kind of thing each institution must be satisfied with.

    Also, I am in the process of reading your book. It’s been a very interesting read so far. Questions soon to follow.

  13. geometer says:

    Peter Woit wrote: “The two contenders for the required paper would be Cao-Zhu and Morgan-Tian”.

    You forgot Kleiner-Lott, whose writings were also supported by Clay Institute. Incidentally, there three papers are somewhat different. Kleiner-Lott’s is a companion to Perelman’s first and second paper, i.e. they have to be read together with papers of Perelman. Cao-Zhu covers the same ground and is self-contained; also Cao-Zhu could not understand some of the Perelman’s arguments and it seems they have substituted their own arguments. These two papers cover the full geometrization including Poincare Conjecture. Morgan-Tian only give a proof of Poincare’s Conjecture (but not the geometrization) in which they follow Perelman’s three papers, so a unique feature here is that they cover the 3rd paper, which is a shortcut to the Poincare’s conjecture and is not discussed by Kleiner-Lott and Cao-Zhu.

  14. Peter Woit says:


    I didn’t forget Kleiner-Lott. They certainly have a good argument that they were the first to work out the details of Perelman’s arguments, but they did not submit their paper to a journal and it was not refereed, so it doesn’t now satisfy the requirements of the Clay prize. They may yet submit it for publication and get it refereed.

  15. MathLover says:

    [Various accusations against Tian deleted]
    I hope this post will add some background to the drama. If there is anything mistakenly stated, please correct it. Hope this stays as objective and Peter will not delete it.

  16. woit says:


    Do not even think of trying to carry on the vicious Yau-Tian fight in the comment section of this blog. I want no part of it, I think the whole thing is a complete disgrace and has done huge and continuing damage to mathematics. If you really think you must participate in that ugly mess, do it elsewhere.

  17. werdna says:

    I don’t think any of the mathematicians who have contributed one way or another to the solution of the Poincare Conjecture cares about the prize money. Yau himself certainly doesn’t seem to care about money, although he could use some of that now for a possible lawsuit…

    What mathematicians in general care a lot about is the proper credit given for their original contribution to mathematical research.
    For a famous problem like the PC, it is understandable that one might want to be acknowledged properly that he has contributed some part in solving it, even if it is, for example, “only” a lemma that is used in another lemma that is used to prove an important theorem. Just exactly how this credit is shared will be left to the math community, who will undoubtedly go through all the documents carefully and fairly, and this will take some time. Whoever made up the 2-year rule was wise indeed.

  18. TheGraduate says:

    I think pretty much everything that can be said about this Poincare buisness has been said. Information is limited. This is a bit surprising as we live in the information age and a lot of this stuff should theoretically be in the public domain. But I think all reliable information sources and conclusions have been exhausted. (And no random emails from unverified sources are not reliable information sources.)

    My other thought is this stuff is blown way out of proportion. As werdna pointed out, this is probably going to get sorted out eventually and accurately. Even if we make the wrong call now, there will probably be some historian in 50 years who will read all the original documentation after everybody is dead and then he or she will sort it out.

  19. TheGraduate says:


    In the intro. to your book, you said you moved to France as a kid. Do you speak french? I have often wondered that from your frequent links to french articles.

  20. Peter Woit says:

    The Graduate,

    Yes, I speak French fairly fluently, although my standard joke is that, yes, I speak French, but like a 12-year old (which is how old I was when I moved back to the US).

    The strange thing about this whole Poincare story is that it isn’t really a case where there’s any significant disagreement about who did what in solving the problem. Pretty much everybody agrees that:

    1. Richard Hamilton (encouraged by Yau) had a program for finding a proof using Ricci flow, made a great deal of progress towards the solution, but got stuck.

    2. Perelman came up with new ideas and techniques that overcame the difficulties Hamilton couldn’t resolve, writing up a detailed outline of a proof.

    3. Several mathematicians worked on filling in the details and checking the proof to make sure that it really worked. Kleiner-Lott did much of this, recently Cao-Zhu and Morgan-Tian produced two independent completely written up versions (both used the work of Kleiner-Lott).

    Unlike many cases in science where there are real priority disputes over who did what first, in this case I don’t think any of the above is controversial. What has generated controversy is people trying to simplify the above story and/or spin it for various purposes, and/or accuse others of trying to spin it.

  21. geometer says:

    I think what generated controversity is the statements made by Yau in June (or more precisely statements attributed to Yau by Chinese media). For example this one (in Chinese, which I have read via a web-translator)
    where he supposely said that “Chinese contribution is at least 30%”. Yau now says that he made no such statements; well there seems to be no record that he publicly objected to any of the statements back in June/July.

    Now it appears that after the ICM Yau has changed his mind (even though the only evidence of this is the statement of his attorney, which is not the same thing as Yau’s own statement). So people say “there is no controversity, everything is fine”.

    I personally think that allegation of unethical behaviour of this magnitude should be investigated while it is still fresh in people’s mind. This is because Yau is a public figure and eventually he may run for President of AMS etc, and it’d be helpful to know if the allegations are true.

  22. MathLover says:

    geometer says:


    You wrote: “As for your other point, I believe MathLover has addressed it satisfactorily. Note that the June 4th Chinese news report was quickly rescinded on June 9th.”

    So I figure you can read Chinese. I truly envy you. Could you kindly translate for me the exact quote where the 1st news report was rescinded?

    To geometer:

    I can give the link of English news items by Xinhua as follows:

    The news on June 9th in Chinese:
    has no English version from Xinhua. One reason is that I can’t find the infamous 105% quote in English neither, hence no need to retreat from. I don’t feel comfortable to translate it. Please use a translator program in internet (by yahoo or google). That will give you some idea. (Or believe what werdna said, I can confirm it is true.)

    The journalist of the June 4th is called LI Bin. He was born in 1972 but has earned a good credit among his peers in Xinhua news agency. I can’t explain what really happened. A post by “Columbia Chemist” may give you a clue. Nevertheless, it was unprofessional on Li’s part first and very unfortunate to be spreaded by New Yorker’s article, when we believe the letter by Yau’s attorney and Nasar just ignored Yau’s complain.

  23. Peter Woit says:

    geometer and MathLover,

    The debate over the 30% is exactly what I had in mind here when I wrote that the problem is people trying to oversimplify and spin things. What Hamilton contributed to this proof is different than what Perelman contributed and these are both very different than the contributions of Kleiner-Lott-Cao-Zhu-Morgan-Tian. Trying to assign relative numerical values to these things is silly, you’re comparing apples and oranges.

    The contributions of Kleiner-Lott-Cao-Zhu-Morgan-Tian involve careful exposition and checking of details. This kind of work is considered an important service by the math community, but it is not considered the highest level of mathematics research, which is coming up with new mathematical ideas. What Hamilton and Perelman did was creative mathematics, in both cases they had to come up with something fundamentally new, something that wasn’t there when they started. Hamilton came up with and did a lot of foundational work on what turned out to be a successful program, this is something research mathematicians value highly. Perelman also came up with unexpected new ideas and created new mathematics. In addition, he was the one to find the new ideas needed to finally solve the problem.

    I think almost all mathematicians value much more highly what Hamilton and Perelman did than the work of Kleiner-Lott-Cao-Zhu-Morgan-Tian. Comparing the two of them though doesn’t make sense. Hamilton had the correct vision and worked out a large amount of what was needed. Perelman was able to get around an obstacle that Hamilton couldn’t surmount and get to the end. This kind of achievement is traditionally the one that ensures your name goes on a theorem. What to name theorems is also kind of silly, requiring huge oversimplification, but, no one is going to argue that Perelman’s name doesn’t belong on this theorem.

  24. werdna says:

    MathLover and geometer,

    Again, I got the dates of June 4th and June 9th from the lawyer’s letter. Whether the details there are correct, I do not know. It seems to come from a reputable source, and unless new information emerges to prove otherwise, I have no reason to doubt its accuracy for now.

  25. Gina says:

    Wouldnt it be a better use of both time and space to talk about these exciting three dimensional manifolds themselves and how they are now understood and what is perhaps left to understand (if anything) rather than about lawyers and credits and newspapers articles and prizes and slanders and power struggles etc??

  26. geometer says:

    MathLover said: “One reason is that I can’t find the infamous 105% quote in English neither, hence no need to retreat from.

    Well, “Columbia Chemist” gave a direct link for
    for the 105% quote. It is in Chinese, and here is how google translates it:

    “Reporters ask questions mathematician Yang Le. The IMC said that if divided by 100%, then the United States and in more than 50% of the contribution mathematician Hamilton, the Russian mathematician Perelman resolve the principal suspect in the 25% contribution. “Chinese scientists, including Qiu, Zhu Xiping and Cao Huaihu East, 30%. ” Yang said that in a century, a major problem worldwide, 30% of the people of China can play a role, it will not be easy, which is a great contribution.

    I also translated the link you provided, and here is what I got:

    “Yang Le academicians believe that a quantitative description of scientists from various countries in proportion to the contributions made to break the Poincare Conjecture, or more than 300 pages of papers analogy of our scientists as” novel “and” not entirely accurate, I do not agree. However, Chinese scientists have indeed made ‘outstanding contribution’. “

  27. geometer says:

    Gina said:
    “Wouldnt it be a better use of both time and space to talk about these exciting three dimensional manifolds themselves..”

    Well, the proof of Poincare’s Conjecture means precisely that there is no exciting (simply-connected closed) 3-manifolds: all of them are copies of the 3-sphere. It’d be much more exciting if the Poincare Conjecture were false; unfortunately this is not the case.

  28. Gina says:

    Actually, I have a specific question that may be you guys can help me with. I vaguely remembered the wonderful story of this humble mathematician whose nick-name was “Papa” who worked on some things related to manifolds in dimension three and after years of effort managed to prove something really big. Thanks to Google and Wikipedea I found his full name – Christos Dimitriou Papakyriakopoulos and appearently he proved the “Dehn’s lemma”. I am curious if all this exciting new works also give a new proof to what “Papa” have done or is it still also “on his shoulders”?

  29. Gina says:

    Thanks, geometer,so are you telling me that this three dimensional saga is done and over with and we can go ahead to four dimensions?

  30. geometer says:


    I am not a 3d-topologist but as far as I know Ricci flow arguments do not imply Dehn’s lemma (as well as many other results of 3d-topology). To date Ricci flow only implies the geometrization (and all its corollaries), and unfortunately there are very few known application beyond that. On the other hand, I suspect that Dehn’s lemma is used at the very last step of the Perelman’s proof when he gets a collapsed 3-manifold and concludes (using collapsing theory and some topological results) that this must be a graph manifold.

    As for whether “the three dimensional saga is done and over with and we can go ahead to four dimensions”, well, there is still a lot of work for 3d-topologists, but the whole area has now become somewhat less exiting, and no so central anymore. Which is okay, in fact the area where Perelman was working all his life has never been a central area of math (until recently anyway).

  31. Gina says:

    Dear Geometer,

    Many thanks for the interesting information. I do not know what a garph manifold is (never mind that) but I am very happy to hear that the proof of the Poincare conjecture still relies on the work of that dear man “Papa”, Christos Dimitriou Papakyriakopoulos. From what I heard he was a very special person.

    You said, “It’d be much more exciting if the Poincare Conjecture were false; unfortunately this is not the case. ”

    I beg to disagree with you on this point. The way I see it, it is exciting that the Poincare conjecture was proven true and it would have been exciting had it was proven false and perhaps, the most exciting thing is that we could not have known in advance. Not what will the answer be and not even if people will be able to crack this problem at all. Probably sometimes it looked going this way and sometimes it looked going the other way and sometimes it looked stucked.

    By the way, before going to dimension four, is everything known about manifolds in dimension two?

  32. Peter Orland says:

    To Me:

    Hilbert did get the action first, but not the right variational principle. He first found wrong field equations. In so doing, he duplicated an earlier wrong result for the field equations with matter, which Einstein had already published. The wrong result sets the Ricci tensor (not the Einstein tensor) proportional to the energy tensor. Since the Ricci tensor isn’t covariantly conserved, these equations aren’t consistent with local energy and momentum conservation.

    The story I heard is that while Hilbert’s paper was in press, he heard that Einstein had found different (and correct) field equations. These were obviously right because they WERE consistent with energy and momentum conservation. Hilbert then changed his paper’s proofs before Einstein’s article came out. In this way he was the first to publish the right result, though not the first to obtain it.

    Of course the vacuum field equations (without matter) were published out by Einstein and his assistants a few
    years earlier (1913).

  33. geometer says:

    Gina asked: “is everything known about manifolds in dimension two?”

    Their classification is classical (pretzels with many holes and all that), but there are still some mysteries about surfaces, eg the studyng the mapping class group (ie the group of self-homotopy equivalences of a surface) is a very active area of research involving several brunches of mathematics, and there is an enormous literature on the subject.

  34. jeremy says:

    I really hope this Yau-Nasar fight will end soon and will end without being in court. It will be painful to see all the quoted mathematicians in the New Yorker article being dragged to the witness stand and to have them been quoted again, under oath this time. It will be unbearable to see their “beautiful mind” being fried by the lawyers in front of the whole world. It is better to leave this depressing saga behind without further damaging the mathematics community.

  35. Thomas Larsson says:

    The Einstein-Hilbert story (at least Todorov’s version of it) can be found in physics/0504179.

  36. Juan R. says:

    Disputes of this class are often frequent on science. Usually one obtain a better perception of the history years after when historians do their work and check for all documentation they can find.

    Take the case of Hilbert-Einstein. During decades people asked why Hilbert, if obtained the GR action first, did not claim priority. Well, the reply is that Einstein said not the true to Hilbert then as proven in this recently discovered mails:

    (15 November 1915) Einstein to Hilbert:

    Highly esteemed Colleague,
    Your analysis interests me tremendously, especially since I often racked my brains to construct a bridge between gravitation and electromagnetics. The hints your give in your postcards awaken the greatest of expectations. Nevertheless, I must refrain from travelling to Göttingen for the moment and rather must wait patiently until I can study your system from the printed article; for I am tired out and plagued with stomach pains besides. If possible, please send me a correction proof of your study to mitigate my impatience.
    With best regards and cordial thanks, also to Mrs. Hilbert, yours.

    Popular physisicist’s claim that Einstein was pionner in the search of an unified field theory is plain wrong. Hilbert was already working in unification!

    Hilbert send a copy to Einstein of his paper on general relativity presented on November 16 at the Göttingen Mathematical Society. Hilbert’s paper was submitted to print on Nov 20. Einstein replied:

    […] The system you furnish agrees – as far as I can see – exactly with what I found in the last few weeks and have presented to the Academy […]

    BUT Einstein’s reply was not accurate! Einstein did not obtain the correct equations of gravitation weeks ago like he claims in above correspondence, because Einstein presented a paper to Academia the day 4 (Nov 1915) containing the incorrect equations, and the day 11 submitted another paper containing again the incorrect field equations.

    During years, Einstein agonized without obtaining a relativistic gravity. Only after of reading correct equations on Hilbert paper (presented the day 16, a copy sent to Einstein the day 18, and published the day 20), Einstein corrected his wrong equations and submitted the famous paper of day 25 containing the correct field equations. Moreover, as correctly noted by I. Todorov in above cited preprint, Einstein proposed without any derivation or rationale the correct equations of general relativity in his final paper of day 25. What is more, Einstein just ‘forgot’ cite or even acknowledge Hilbert crucial assistance.

    Each one can obtain her/his own conclusions.

    About the Science article cited above. It has been critized to be inaccurate and even sensationalist. It claims that the recently discovered gallery proof did not contain Hilbert action but the article failed to explain that proof was mutilated. That is, the paper did not contain the Hilbert equations because someone cut a third of the piece with the equations here!

    Therefore together above petitions for NS and PR, i add Science journal also!

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  37. Cynthia says:

    Does anyone know why Arkani-Hamed thinks that the doors to the landscape must open if split supersymmetry is revealed in the next run of LHC experiments? I’m uncertain as to why he’s absolutely closed to the idea that the “other part of split supersymmetry is detectable at even higher energy levels. By the way, I’m not surprised to discover that Arkani-Hamed made the top ten list of brilliant scientists. Not that my opinion has any worth, I do, however, find him to be one of the most intriguing thinkers in the field of theoretical physics.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Peter, regarding earlier comments, I do know that Kleiner and Lott will be submitting their paper to a refereed journal, if they haven’t already, and although I had heard that the Clay people were considering waiving the “refereed publication” requirement for Perelman, the two year wait will (almost certainly) stand.

  39. TheGraduate says:

    I think the issue of who gets the million dollars is minor. A million dollars is a lot of money to be given but I think most of the people involved in this controversy could probably make plenty of money on wall street if they were so inclined.

    I bet many companies would pay through the nose to get mathematicians of such quality and distinction in their financial mathematics departments.

  40. MathLover says:

    Peter and TheGraduate,

    You were talking about two jobs from same person. Today’s issue of Science magazine has two articles under their News Focus column:

    SCIENTIFIC WORKFORCE: Frustrations Mount Over China’s High-Priced Hunt for Trophy Professors

    SCIENTIFIC WORKFORCE: Many Overseas Chinese Researchers Find Coming Home a Revelation

    This will be helpful to know some background for one issue raised by the New Yorker article.

  41. TheGraduate says:


    Sorry, I can’t access those articles.

  42. MathLover says:


    Here is a link to the first article:

    Go to the bottom of this blog and click number 6 from number series 1 to 6. There you can simply search word frustrations and find the article in a number of subsequent comments.

    This is the place where a Peking University math professor (Weiyue Ding) sets up a blog for the Poincare conjecture’s Yau drama. I hope you will find the English article in a sea of Chinese characters.

  43. John Baez says:

    CapitalImperialistPig writes:

    John Baez,

    While I can’t disagree with anything you say, I have to say I’m sorry you never wrote those articles for Scientific American. There is something to be said for writing for the intelligent layman.

    There definitely is, and I want to do a bunch of that sometime. But, I probably want to do it in some way that’s either free for the reader (like on my website), or will make me some serious money (like a sensationalistic, overhyped best-selling book).

    Right now I’m having fun writing expository stuff for people who already know a bit of math and physics. There’s a kind of market niche here that I seem to fill: math and physics have gotten so complicated that even most mathematicians and physicists can use a lot of help understanding it.

  44. TheGraduate says:


    Thanks. Quite interesting article. It reminds me of the worries about losing manufacturing jobs to China that is prevalent on the American side of the ocean. In this case, you have people in China worrying about academics that collect salaries while spending most of their time in America and then you have companies like Walmart that produce massive quantities of product in China but still want to be seen as American companies.

    Globalization is good. Nationalism is so 19th century. I say we leave it to the universities to figure out whether they are wasting their money or not. My guess is they aren’t.

  45. Peter Orland says:

    Juan R.

    Your version of the Einstein-Hilbert question is very different from news reports that come out a while back. Be that as it may, General Relativity was invented by Einstein and collaborators, not Hilbert, in 1913, when they published the vacuum field equations. The issue of whether Einstein or Hilbert has priority concerns only the modification of these field equations with energy. The most revolutionary physical and mathematical ideas were in the 1913 work. One could argue that the field equations in the presence of energy was then going to be found by someone eventually.

  46. Juan R. says:

    Peter Orland, in short

    Einstein recognized in several writtings that his 1913 work (so called Einstein–Grossmann theory) was wrong.

    Einstein published many contradictory theories in subsequent years, in early 1914 returned to a scalar theory but in the last part of 1914 returned again to the metric theory of 1913 with modifications.

    Hilbert presented objections to Einstein theory (1914 version) and since 1912 he was working in a unified field theory.

    Einstein learned from Hilbert and contacted with him waiting his review of Einstein new works. Einstein published a series of subsequent papers with different theories (rejecting his previous ones and embracing Hilbert’s criticism to previous versions) until the final work of 25 Nov 1915 containing the right version of GR. But Hilbert had did first!

    General relativity is an outcome of the work of many people including crucial contributions from mathematicians as Poincare or Grossman. The GR action and the correct field equations and basic principles such as that of general covariance (initially rejected by Einstein) were pionerized by Hilbert.

    I wait many distorsions of the history of relativity in physicists’ textbooks can be eliminated in a future thanks to more accurate historical presentations. My posting here is my small tribute to Hilbert, Poincare, and others mathematicians.

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  47. Peter Orland says:


    I am not sure I should reply and keep this discussion going, but the idea of introducing a curved metric into gravity and the vacuum field equations is not due to Hilbert. Hermann Weyl, Hilbert’s Goettingen colleague, in his book “Space-Time-Matter” did not give Hilbert credit for the idea of general relativity in 1913. If you have a copy, take a look. Weyl certainly does give credit to Hilbert for the action principle, which Hilbert deserves.

    The only debate is who first got the details of the equations with matter in 1915. I think you are wrong on this too, but even if you were right, the 1915 result is much less significant than the 1913 vacuum field equations. Eventually someone would have got this right, whether Einstein, Hilbert or somebody else. Hilbert did not invent the principle of equivalence. Hilbert did not introduce the metric and curvature into gravity. Hilbert was not the first to realize the importance of the stress tensor. Hilbert did not find (exact or approximate) solutions of the vacuum field equations, or find their experimental consequences.

    Like many ideas, general relativity is the work of many people, but
    Einstein’s work was primary, even if he made mistakes and changed his mind from time to time. After nine decades, some mathematicians still can’t stand the fact that Einstein’s contributions to relativity and gravity soar above their own. Why? I don’t claim Einstein invented Riemannian geometry.

  48. Juan R. says:


    From my part i do not desire to continue this discussion with you, since you continue putting in my fingers stuff i never wrote (this is the second time you are doing this).

    I never said that Hilbert introduced the metric theory the first time and i already remarked the contributions of people as Grossman (precisely regarding some incorrect thoughts of Einstein regarding the nature of the metric tensor). Of course Einstein was not piooner here!

    I never said that Hilbert were the only father of general relativity just remarked the field equations dispute therefore I fail to appreciate your criticism.

    Hermann Weyl, was not a historian (was him?) and his ‘personal’ opinions about facts is a secundary source when compared with direct historical analysis of papers published by all people currently in the historians target.

    It is not true that the only debate was “who first got the details of the equations with matter in 1915.” The whole point is a little more complex than you try to present here.

    “Hilbert did not find (exact or approximate) solutions of the vacuum field equations, or find their experimental consequences.”

    I would recommend you updating your sources since in last few years a number of very interestings works analize with care the history of relativity. You could begin with some of those:

    Jürgen Renn and John Stachel, Hilbert’s Foundation of Physics: From a Theory of Everything to a Constituent of General Relativity.


    Friedwart Winterberg. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung (2004) 59a, 715-719.

    Daniela Wuensch, “zwei wirkliche Kerle”, Neues zur Entdeckung der Gravitationsgleichungen der Allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie durch Einstein und Hilbert. Termessos, 2005, ISBN 3-938016-04-3

    “After nine decades, some mathematicians still can’t stand the fact that Einstein’s contributions to relativity and gravity soar above their own. Why? I don’t claim Einstein invented Riemannian geometry.”

    Now i can see you clearly…

    Juan R.

    Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)

  49. Peter Woit says:

    Peter and Juan,
    This Hilbert/Einstein argument is completely off-topic and not going anywhere. I’ll delete any more attempts to continue this argument here.

  50. On September 23, 2006

    Here are some facts found in the Chinese world on the Yau case. Many puzzles in this case can be answered from these simple facts.

    [Long comment including attacks on Morgan and Tian deleted]

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