Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Million Dollars for Solving a Math Problem -- Will the Winner Show Up?

The Clay Mathematics Institute has announced the winner of the 1 million dollar prize for the resolution of the Poincare conjecture, which is a conjecture in a branch of mathematics known as topology. The announcement was made this week by Dr. James Carlson, the President of the Clay Institute, that Dr. Grigoriy Perelman of St.Petersburg, Russia is the winner of this prize.

Dr. Perelman in 2006 received the prestigious Fields Medal but never claimed it. The New York Times, in an article, is wondering whether he will (or will not) claim the million dollar prize for solving a longstanding mathematics problem that was one of seven selected for the Millenium Awards by the Clay Institute, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Interestingly, Dr. Perelman, 7 years ago, in 3 papers posted on the Internet, provided the solution to this math problem, which was posed in 1904 by Poincare. The news of his results quickly spread (at least in math circles) and he embarked on a whirlwind series of speaking engagements, only to return back to Russia and then resign from his post at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics. He stopped answering email messages and, in a sense, disappeared professionally.

According to The New York Times, several teams of mathematicians, using Dr. Perelman’s papers as a guide, completed a full proof of the conjecture in manuscripts hundreds of pages long, showing that Dr. Perelman was right.

The Clay Institute plans to hold a conference to celebrate the solution of the Poincaré conjecture on June 8 and 9 in Paris, France. Dr. Carlson was quoted as saying that Dr. Perelman will let him know in due time whether he will accept this prize.

There are 6 other math problems left as Millennium Problems, so for those who are interested, you may find the list here. The solution of any of these will garner you a million dollars.