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Math The Almighty Buck Science

Perelman Urged To Accept $1m Prize 421

Posted by timothy
from the leave-the-guy-alone-already dept.
krou writes "The Warm Home charity in St. Petersburg, Grigory Perelman's home-town, has urged the math genius and recluse to accept the $1m Millennium Prize for solving the Poincaré conjecture, and donate it to charities. Perelman has refused to accept the award, telling one reporter through the closed door of his flat, 'I have all I want,' and another who managed to call him on his mobile, 'You are disturbing me. I am picking mushrooms.'"
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Perelman Urged To Accept $1m Prize

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  • This is hilarious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:08PM (#31621410)

    Patron saint of basement dwellers everywhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, I suspect his disposition is what enabled him to make this discovery. Human progress can't all be achieved by preppie facebook overachievers. Some crazy is needed for the truly genius results.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kitkoan (1719118)

        Well, I suspect his disposition is what enabled him to make this discovery. Human progress can't all be achieved by preppie facebook overachievers. Some crazy is needed for the truly genius results.

        Yeah, just remember that genius and madness are only separated by a thin line.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:44PM (#31621734)

          Yeah, just remember that genius and madness are only separated by a thin line.

          Some people aren't as fixated on money or socializing and gossip as journalists and Trolls are. Not wanting to be part of the In-Crowd does NOT make a person insane, or on the verge of insanity. Some people, like me, program for a hobby. Some people even write poetry without the intent of having it published. It makes us weird compared to the Trolls and socialites out there. But it doesn't make us crazy.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            This guy, though, actually is insane, as anyone who read up on his life and habits knows.

            • by DamnStupidElf (649844) <Fingolfin@linuxmail.org> on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:46AM (#31622652)
              Sanity is defined as having "soundness of mind and judgment." Being able to prove the Poincaré conjecture implies at least sound judgment in a logical sense in order to understand the proof, and clearly enough soundness of mind to compose a readable paper describing the proof. Perhaps you are confusing arbitrary personal lifestyle choices and a refusal to adhere to common social norms with some form of insanity. At worst, you might call it "asocial" or "antisocial", but that is hardly insane.
        • by nazsco (695026) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:11PM (#31621890) Journal

          > Yeah, just remember that genius and madness are only separated by a thin line.

          In this case it isnt so.

          He is genius. he knows more math then you do. and he knows more about a good life then you do.

          because you dont understand him, considers him a madman on both accounts probably. Only so in the math part someone already told you to belive that he is a genius. not that you would understand it too. as you do not understand his views on a good life.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Is he doing what he enjoys - Yes (By his own admission)
            Is he happy - Well until the press started bugging him yes ...

            Sounds like he is someone who is happy, employed and has enough money.... ....unlike many people he seems to value the right things

        • Yeah, just remember that genius and madness are only separated by a thin line.

          Isn't it "The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success"?

        • by mjwx (966435) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:54PM (#31622136)

          Yeah, just remember that genius and madness are only separated by a thin line.

          The poor bloke just wants to do math and pick mushrooms. There's nothing wrong with him just because he doesn't fit into the "nuclear" society mould.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:41PM (#31621712)

        Actually I read a interview with him at some point (I think in the New Yorker), and he really doesn't want the limelight.

        Since his discovery, he's had offers from major universities to work, and he's turned them all down.

        He really didn't do this for the glory. He is one of those few, rare individuals who achieved great things solely because they were there. Humble. Strange. Special in some way.

        I honestly admire this man. He has solved one of the most important problems of our time (and others' time) and his only wish is that other people take it further, purely for the sake of knowledge and understanding. Not for awards. Not for riches. Not for fame. Simply for knowledge.

        We may not understand him. Quite likely he doesn't understand us.

        He may not accept our riches, but he has given us something far far greater than mere money. Leave him be.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stygianguest (828258)
          One could consider it his moral duty to teach others. Teaching is severely underrated in research communities. Good teachers probably deliver more scientific advancement to society than anyone else. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if he is a terrible teacher.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by timeOday (582209)
          It is also entirely possible he's rejecting the award out of spite, to get back at society and mainstream mathematics for perceived wrongs in the past. What proves your superiority more than out-doing them all, then spurning even their congratulations and awards. Passive-aggressiveness at its best. That would still be no crime, but it's much different than simply not caring.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      Perhaps I should turn in my geek card for not knowing or caring who he is but ...

      Really, sounds like the guy just wants to be left alone ... bugging him really isn't going to do anyone any good and he seems to be being awfully nice to people bugging the shit out of him and being otherwise very inconsiderate (stereotypical of reporters and the public at large).

      Stereotypical of geeks it may be, but I can certainly sympathize with him.

  • I have an idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:10PM (#31621424)

    Maybe leave the guy alone like he wants?

    • by nschubach (922175) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:12PM (#31621434) Journal

      Sounds like a plan to me. I'd be pissed off if people kept bugging me as well. Just take the money he doesn't want and give it to a math oriented scholarship fund or something.

      • Re:I have an idea... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tynin (634655) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:29AM (#31622830)

        Sounds like a plan to me. I'd be pissed off if people kept bugging me as well. Just take the money he doesn't want and give it to a math oriented scholarship fund or something.

        and yet maybe if you had a clue about where he was coming from you'd know it was the same math community that fucked him over that you suggest giving blindly too.... not that I dont disagree with teaching math on all levels to those that want it., but it is more immersive than that at a higher level (not just a give it to math scholarships and call it a day (yet I can see your point, but his as well). he was at the height of mathadamia (yay for made up words) and what he saw there was nothing short of cut throat... I'm four sheets to the wind, but please look up some of my earlier arguments.... ah fuck it, here is my earlier discussion on him: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1484928&cid=30508008 [slashdot.org]

        and really, dont take it from me, read the new yorker piece on him (I ref in my link). he is something special. not just some stuck up asshole looking for an albeit good for him negitive bit of PR.

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:16PM (#31621472) Journal

      Best idea I've heard yet. The right to be left alone is one of the most important ones we have.

      -jcr

      • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:36PM (#31621672)
        Still better to take it. A million would easily pay for building a moat around his house as well as for some sharks and lasers.
        • by tool462 (677306)

          Yeah, the upkeep is where they get you though. Have you seen the prices on shark de-barnacling lately? Talk about a market bubble...

        • by oljanx (1318801) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:52AM (#31622942)
          Actually, no. You see, sharks are very large creatures with special needs. You can't just dig up a moat and stick sharks in it. Picture something like Sea World, and then imagine it your front yard. Then figure in the difficulty of training sharks to properly use high-powered laser beams. It's quite a bit more expensive than you might think, not something within the reach of your average millionaire. Trust me, I know.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      Maybe leave the guy alone like he wants?

      If only he had the money to hire a decent bodyguard.

  • This guy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:11PM (#31621426)

    Is a total badass, he sets the standard for life.

  • by LittleBigScript (618162) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:11PM (#31621428) Homepage Journal

    Maybe try his facebook.

    They don't make recluses like they used to.

  • by Kitkoan (1719118) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:12PM (#31621432)
    Now I know how he figured it out at least. He went out, picked magic mushrooms, ate them and let the universe tell him the answer. No wonder he doesn't want the prize, it should be given to the great mushroom spirits.
  • by gyepi (891047) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:12PM (#31621436) Homepage
    He probably wants nothing more than being left alone. It's ironic that he doesn't seem to grasp that his eccentric behavior makes that even more difficult to achieve.
    • That may be true, but I'm willing to bet he actually wants nothing more than people begging him to accept the prize, and then rejecting them. I'll bet it gives him a small rush every time it happens.
  • Ah... an Oscar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:13PM (#31621446)

    This latest snub follows his refusal in 2006 to collect the maths equivalent of an Oscar, the Fields Medal.

    Its sad that the Fields medal is being compared to the Oscars - don't get me wrong, the Oscars are high honors in their fields - but comparing the lifetime of dedication scientists and mathematicians put into their work to the winner of 'Best miniskirt on hot actress in a running scene' doesn't seem right.

  • Not for this reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beetle B. (516615) <beetle_b@@@email...com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:25PM (#31621560)

    He's rejecting it on principled grounds. Regardless of what you think about those principles, he simply can't do this just for short term charity.

    When he rejected the Field's medal, he simply said to the effect of, "If I take the money, I'd be obligated to correct the wrongs I see, otherwise I'd be a hypocrite. I don't want to be the one making that crusade, so I have to reject the money." (Remember the scene in Thank You For Not Smoking?) It's a simple, logical response. He may be a recluse and all, but there's nothing strange about his refusal to take the money.

  • self defeating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:27PM (#31621592)

    Refusing a $1 million prize will, I suspect, generate more, of the attention he doesn't want.

    The journalists camped outside his home and calling his cell phone don't give a crap about some obscure piece of mathematics - they care about the weirdo who is turning down a fortune.

  • Mother and Sister? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@gmai l . com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:28PM (#31621608) Journal

    If he's jobless and living with his family, the least the foundation could do is contact his family and ask if they'd like the money for rent, food, etc. They're essentially paying for his work and even if he doesn't want the prize, they could give it to his family quietly so he can continue to do his work without someone having to worry about rent.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:38PM (#31621702)

      From what I can recall, his mother and sister are similarly minded as he himself is.

      Thus, they too would refuse the money.

      Is integrity such a rare thing these days, that everybody freaks the fuck out when they see it, call the person exhibiting it "Strange", and "Weird"?

      Because that is what seems to be happening from my vantage point.

      Seriously, just stop harassing the man. The doesn't want any prizes, additional prestige, or some fucking trophy for his wall. He solved the conjecture, his name will be in math books for the rest of eternity, and that is prize enough for him. Just leave him the fuck alone already.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:33PM (#31621644) Homepage

    Quit bothering the guy already.

    He's sensible enough to know that if he accepts, people will want him to give speeches, attend talks, and will generally waste his time. Feynman once pointed out that winning a Nobel Prize meant that he heard from many people he really didn't want to talk to. Feynman sometimes gave talks under a pseudonym, so that only the people really interested in the subject matter would show up.

    • by slew (2918)

      Have to hand it this guy, though.

      Feynman succumbed to the peer pressure and accepted the prize. Perelman hasn't caved in to peer pressure yet and this is his second one...

    • by jamesh (87723)

      That's the thing that would really bug me about suddenly coming in to a heap of money I didn't really earn (i'm not saying this guy didn't earn the million, but that appears to be his opinion). You'd find out more about the people around you than you probably ever wanted to know.

      And i'm sure there are exceptions, but giving people lots of money that they don't really feel that they've earned probably isn't going to make them happy in the long run.

  • by BoppreH (1520463)
    Disturb him some more and he might never submit another of his solutions to the world.
    • by Albinoman (584294)

      No, he probably understands the importance of discovery or else he wouldn't have revealed this one. We don't want him to release them post-mortem.

  • what mushrooms? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slonik (108174) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:37PM (#31621678)

    and another who managed to call him on his mobile, 'You are disturbing me. I am picking mushrooms.'

    Just check the weather in St.Petersburg, Russia. It is still too cold there for any mushrooms to grow. So much for journalist's integrity.

    • They can grow mushrooms indoors now that we have that wonderful invention 'heating'.

    • by svunt (916464)
      Since there's mobile coverage where the mushroom picking is going down, maybe it's indoor rather than in a forest?
  • by dfarcanjo (631428) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:38PM (#31621690)

    Will: Oh, come on! What? Why is it always this? I mean, I fuckin' owe it to myself to do this or that. What if I don't want to?
    Chuckie: No. No, no no no. Fuck you, you don't owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me. Cuz tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and I'll be 50, and I'll still be doin' this shit. And that's all right. That's fine. I mean, you're sittin' on a winnin' lottery ticket. And you're too much of a pussy to cash it in, and that's bullshit. 'Cause I'd do fuckin' anything to have what you got. So would any of these fuckin' guys. It'd be an insult to us if you're still here in 20 years. Hangin' around here is a fuckin' waste of your time.

    <b> mine.

    • by ghostunit (868434)
      But that was said to him by a (real) friend, that's the whole point.
      This man has no friends, and all everyone wants from him is his work.
      It is true that he would most likely be way better off if he used that work to make himself rich, but that's up to him and it's insulting to propose that he owes it to complete strangers such as us.
  • An artform. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:43PM (#31621722)

    I think Perelman is not so much a weirdo, but an aesthetic artist of sorts--he's been hurt by the fact that humans have tried to monetize something he considers to be beautiful...as if you could place a price on Shakespeare or a price-tag on Emily Dickinsons' poems.

    • Do you think Shakespeare wrote only for the art?
    • by fyoder (857358) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:39PM (#31622052) Homepage Journal

      as if you could place a price on Shakespeare or a price-tag on Emily Dickinsons' poems.

      Shakespeare [amazon.com] : $26.40

      Emily Dickinson [amazon.com] : $14.95

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by signingis (158683)

      ascetic

  • He seems a nice but geeky guy. He loves maths, but doesn't want some prize he never applied for. Good for him. Of course there are plenty that would love to leech off him, 'charity' or not, which is all the more reason not to set himself up as a target by accepting. It will be interesting to see what Grigory comes up with next.

    Phillip.

  • Here's my theory. He's a genius, a madman and a recluse, as well as everything else people say about him plus one other note: a mushroom farmer. 1$ million probably isn't even worth his time to open the door. "I have all I want" pretty much sums it up. Take your paltry 1$ million and donate it to an appropriate charity. If you really want a minute of his precious time you'll probably have to raise the figure by a couple orders of magnitude.

  • I'll do good things with it. Honestly. :-)

  • Not Married (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @11:20PM (#31621940) Journal

    He must not be married. If I turned down a mil, my wife would kill me, dig me back up, kill me again, film it all, and sell the film rights to recoup it.

  • Based on what people are saying wrt to receiving a large sum in Russia, the origin of the phrase "white elephant" [wikipedia.org] comes to mind.

  • He illustrates PERFECTLY the difference between intelligence and wisdom. He's only got one. *shrug*

  • I'd be happy to form the charity foundation for leaving Perelman the fuck alone if he wants to give me the million bucks. Then he could refer anyone bugging him to my foundation whenever they bug him. Actually, he's welcome to do that anyway. For a million bucks, I'd be willing to poke intruders in the eye and spew random obscenities at them, though!
  • by blueworm (425290) on Friday March 26, 2010 @01:48AM (#31622660) Homepage

    This bit is more about our personal dissatisfaction with our lives, as the readers, having to do things we don't like for money. It's more about a dissatisfaction with the economic system and less about this mathematician, or ex-mathematician. This dissatisfaction leads us to react to any declination of money with shock. The real key to freedom is living with very little and very humbly such that we "work" less and live more enjoyably, where "work" is here defined as any activity done more for money and less for personal enjoyment.

    Even Richard M. Stallman himself has suggested this:

    "I live like a student, basically. And I like that, because it means that money is not telling me what to do."
    -- Richard M. Stallman
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/fsfs/rms-essays.pdf
    Pg. 164

  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Friday March 26, 2010 @02:32AM (#31622848) Homepage

    Ah, never mind, you're probably not smart enough to take the money.

  • by managementboy (223451) on Friday March 26, 2010 @04:03AM (#31623250) Homepage
    What the comity could do is take the million and invest it at say 3%. Create a new price called the Perelman price and give the interests away to the winner every 5 years.

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