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Math The Almighty Buck

Grigory Perelman Turns Down $1M Millennium Prize 226

Posted by kdawson
from the can't-buy-me-love dept.
Kleiba writes "After turning down the prestigious Field Medal in 2006 for his contributions to mathematics, the reclusive Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman announced yesterday that he is rejecting a $1 million Millennium Prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute for solving the Poincare conjecture."
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Grigory Perelman Turns Down $1M Millennium Prize

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  • Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:39AM (#32775236)

    Yeah, and do you know why? Because this guy believes that most advancements in science are cooperative efforts, and that recognizing individuals for merely putting the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is intellectually dishonest: It devalues the work of everyone else who contributed.

    • Re:Why (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iamhassi (659463) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:48AM (#32775452) Journal
      "recognizing individuals for merely putting the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is intellectually dishonest: It devalues the work of everyone else who contributed."

      He's got a good point, so why doesn't he take the money and pay all those he believes should be paid for their contribution? Perelman says his contribution is no greater than Richard Hamilton's who first suggested a pathway toward the solution. Why not give the money to him or scores of other great mathematicians?
      • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Peach Rings (1782482) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32775630) Homepage

        By turning down the prize he brings wide attention to the issue, which could actually change the situation.

        • Re:Why (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:30PM (#32776206)

          which could actually change the situation.

          lol. no.

          He'll be labeled an "eccentric genius" (aka kook) and the world will go on as before. Where've you been?

           

        • by severoon (536737)

          His problem seems to be that Hamilton's work isn't being recognized as well, and more generally that the process used to assess the award is unjust. Why don't the key people at the Clay Mathematics Institute offer to sit down with him and hear what he has to say on the matter with an open mind about changing the way they work?

          They don't have to ultimately do anything, but here they have a smart guy telling them something is wrong with their organization at great personal cost to himself. Wouldn't that promp

          • by TheLink (130905)

            I don't think he sees the world the way you and most other people do (including the Clay institute bunch).

            To me this is the actual problem - trying to give 1 million dollars to Perelman is like giving a million dollars in $1 notes directly to a champion race horse.

            The people trying to do that are just being very stupid. What's the race horse going to do with a million dollar bills? They are just wasting their time and annoying the horse.

            If you genuinely want to benefit the race horse you use your brains and

        • "By turning down the prize he brings wide attention to the issue, which could actually change the situation."

          What issue? What situation?Don't get me wrong, I mean, if the guy doesn't want the money he doesn't have to take it. But I'm seeing a bunch of hand wringing here about a nothing issue, in my opinion. If the guy doesn't want to be bothered, if he wants to be a nutty recluse and be left alone to work out more math problems and what not, great. But if he's turning down the money to make some kind of political point wouldn't it have been better to take the money then turn around and set up a fund to combat priz

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheLink (130905)

        I think you (and they) do not understand Perelman, his mind does not work like that. They should stop annoying him by trying to give him the money.

        A better way to give Grigory Perelman 1 million dollars is to give a monthly allowance to whoever happens to be supporting him (and doing a good enough job of it).

        Maybe they could secretly[1] give the money to his mom and sister (maybe a small lump sum in addition to the monthly allowance). They were/are supporting him[2].

        He does not seem to be the sort of guy wh

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rivalz (1431453)

      Either that or he has another theory that the monetary system flawed and fails to adequately characterize the effort = reward by the fact that Money is it's own reward or Money = More Money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Because this guy believes that most advancements in science are cooperative efforts, and that recognizing individuals for merely putting the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is intellectually dishonest

      No, no, no, no, no. You got it all wrong. Please don't paint this with your opinionated brush about intellectual honesty.
      It's simple. What USE does he have for money in the 8th dimension?! (It's pronounced Big-boo-TAY)

    • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#32775602)

      Because this guy believes that most advancements in science are cooperative efforts, and that recognizing individuals for merely putting the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is intellectually dishonest: It devalues the work of everyone else who contributed.

      Cooperative efforts yes, but I disagree with the rest of your statement. The person who puts the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle together is the one who makes the work the rest did useful. So another guy pointed out the pathway? Yes, but he didn't solve the problem. His contributions may have been valuable, and he should be credited for what he did do, but starting something is not the same as finishing something. Starting something is not worth 1 million. Finishing something revolutionary is. Finding the answer that others, including the starter could not, is what make his work worth 1 million. And it doesn't devalue the work of those who's work he built on. It doesn't say they did nothing. It accurately values their contributions as good, but values his as the more revolutionary contribution, which it was.

      As the Clay institute even points out in the article, every mathematician follows in the work of others. Everyone does that. There's nothing to reward there. What not everyone does is tie all the pieces together into a revolutionary advance. THAT's why they want to award Perleman 1 million dollars and that's why they think he should accept it. And I agree, he should take the money as it is not a gift, but rather an earned reward for the hard, revolutionary work that he did.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        If many steps are taken to solve a problem, all by different people, there is no reason that the final step was necessarily the most difficult.

        Perhaps whoever made the first step could have also made the last step if he'd had the intermediate steps to build on. Or if he'd had the first step to build on, while he was still young.
    • Re:Why (Score:5, Interesting)

      by quadelirus (694946) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#32775616)
      I thought it was because he was angry with some well known profs who he had talked to about his proof method and they had pretty much shut him out when he was a grad student or postdoc or something, and that because these awards are for leaders of the mathematical community, and he feels ostracized by the community, he won't participate.

      That said, the dude is being supported by his mother--last I checked--which, if true, in my mind means he ought to take the money and give it to his mom if he doesn't want it.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yep, that's why.

        The original poster just thinks he knows because that's what he thinks he would do.

        Idiots are running the stupid shop.

        You heard me.

    • by IflyRC (956454)
      Its good to know nothing exploded.
    • recognizing individuals for merely putting the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle is intellectually dishonest

      Not always true. If he's just the guy who put it all together, then it's true that maybe he doesn't deserve a huge prize. Nevertheless, some people truly revolutionize a field (or multiple fields) almost by themselves; see Linus Pauling for the best example.

      Recognizing the last guy in a long line can sometimes be dishonest, but what if that line's been stalled for decades and this 'last guy in line' solves all the big problems or re-invents the field completely. Completely new schools of science happen ev

    • by geekoid (135745)

      That's not why. Nice try, however.

  • A true mathmetician (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:40AM (#32775250) Homepage

    There aren't too many of 'em left out there. I wouldn't be surprised if he had requested his name to be withheld from being publicly acknowledged.

    • by Xest (935314)

      I don't think there's ever been too many, but I think there's still probably more but there now than there ever has been. He did a great job, but is by no means unique, although certainly the way he has responded to his achievements is fairly unique in modern times.

      Don't forget that people like Andrew Wiles are still alive and kicking, who proved Fermat's Last Theorem in 1995 to give one example.

      I think the real problem is that mathematical and scientific achievements are just going ever more unnoticed amon

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      A true mathmetician ... There aren't too many of 'em left out there.

      *facepalm*

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      If he is a 'true mathmetician', then, obviously you are a true onomatologist, which is false, since Perelman is a mathematician, but it may also be true, if truly mathematicians are mathmeticians.

      Since you are both, True and False, you do not really exist.

      There, I am a true phlosifar.

  • Again? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:41AM (#32775270)

    Didn't he reject the award repeatedly, over the past few years, every time he was asked? Why are people still annoying the poor guy?

    • Re:Again? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:53AM (#32775552)

      he's got 99 problems but the poincare conjecture aint one

    • Re:Again? (Score:5, Informative)

      by quadelirus (694946) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32775632)
      No. Multiple awards. Field medal first, now millennium prize.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        I have this perverse urge to call him up once a week, claiming to be from a different foundation seeking to give him an award for his contributions to math. Maybe get really elaborate, have different people calling him, set up websites for each of these foundations to make them seem legit. I bet we could really drive him up the wall.

        Heh. It's a good thing I'm not as big a jerk in real life as I am in my imagination. Or maybe it's just a good thing that I'm too lazy to pull off a prank like that. :P

      • I think he would have been a better recipient for the last Nobel Peace Prize (at least we know *HE* would have had the good sense to decline it).
    • by bonch (38532)

      Yeah, "poor guy," getting offered millions of dollars but having to make the effort of turning it down instead of donating it to a good cause. I can't imagine that kind of hardship.

      • And as others have pointed out, mooching off his mother at the same time.. poor woman :s Unless she's a bit off in the head too she'd probably quite like some more money, but also probably wouldn't want to upset her son.

  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dangitman (862676)
    If that million dollars is just sitting around doing nothing, can I please have it instead? I'm pretty good at adding.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      Oh, now I get his problem!!

      It's 1 million dollars, that's like, just an integer...

      They should have presented him with an elliptic equation.

  • he thinks he doesn't deserve the lion's share of the prize because there were others who contributed to his (their) achievement

    the man has principles, that's for sure

    all of our work, whatever we do, whether science, math, movies, music... we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, or on the shoulders of those working right next to us. often recognition for making a contribution is just a matter of luck, of being the one who accumulates the most media coverage for being at the tipping point when there was a tipping point to be had (as if anyone knows where or when the tipping points lie)

    not that i'm denigrating grigory's contributions. HE is denigrating his own contributions. a genuinely humble man, even in the face of a cool million. he's more of an ascetic than i could ever be. he's married to his intellectual pursuits, he's foregone earthly indulgences because they will just get in the way of all he cares about doing. he knows that the money will ruin his mental discipline. locking himself in a room with his mind out of genuine intellectual passion

    i admire him, i could never do that. i like the earthly indulgences too much

    • by emudoug42 (977380) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:54AM (#32775572)
      yeah, earthly indulgences are wicked sweet. You could buy a lot of waffle mix with one million dollars. about 592,000 lbs of waffle mix.
    • he thinks he doesn't deserve the lion's share of the prize because there were others who contributed to his (their) achievement

      Fair enough. Maybe everyone who has worked with him in some way should get together and agree that they would like him to take the prize, even if it is simply to help out his mother.

      There is another view point, that the best work sometimes comes from lack of resources, not with the abundance of.

    • by bonch (38532)

      Perhaps he could apply his math skills and divide the money among those who contributed. Or he could donate it to a good cause. This really doesn't seem like a hard problem to solve.

    • by houghi (78078)

      We used to stand on the shoulders of Giants. Now that is much harder as those shoulders are companies with copyrights and patents.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      "he thinks he doesn't deserve the lion's share of the prize because there were others who contributed to his (their) achievement."

      If that's the case, wouldn't the logical solution be to convince the prize committee to split the prize with the other mathematicians, to give them medals also, and to split the money between them?

      As for the earthly indulgences thing, I guess I could see that, but that's also a problem easily dealt with. . . setup some sort of trust fund that only gives you a yearly stipend suffi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#32775608)

    Millennium. Two Ns. From Latin "mille", thousand, and "annus", year. A thousand years.
    If you write it with only one N, it would be derived from mille and anus, which would be "a thousand assholes".

    • If you write it with only one N, it would be derived from mille and anus, which would be "a thousand assholes".

      Well, this is Slashdot...thought your estimate may be a little low.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:36PM (#32776318)

      If you write it with only one N, it would be derived from mille and anus, which would be "a thousand assholes".

      ...which, incidentally, is the prize for excellence in management.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Millennium. Two Ns. From Latin "mille", thousand, and "annus", year. A thousand years.
      If you write it with only one N, it would be derived from mille and anus, which would be "a thousand assholes".

      - I am quite certain that Perelman's decision is actually based on the fact, that he thinks those are a thousand assholes, who decide who gets the medals/prizes and those who often unfairly get them.

      You are closer to the truth than you think, in Russian there is a saying: each joke has a little bit of a joke in it (which means that jokes often carry a large element of truth and a little bit of a funny side as well.)

      Good work.

  • by Stumbles (602007) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:08PM (#32775822)
    This gave me a chuckle;

    Carlson said. "But what he did is definitely not the way things are normally done."

    And the only reason they took him seriously was from past work. So in other words; if someone cracks an astounding math problem and they don't know you; they will ignore you because you did not "follow their procedures"; even though your work might be the basis for faster than light travel or some current science fiction technology. What a bunch of self absorbed petty cry babies. They remind me of the scientists in HHGTTG for hanging the guy that created the infinite improbability drive; simply because they didn't like a smart-ass.

    • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:26PM (#32776128)

      A bunch of people spent several years of their lives to validate that his solution was correct. The point is that those people wouldn't have bothered unless the source of the proposed solution was credible - because there are tons of crackpots who post all sorts of theories on the internet that aren't worth spending minutes let alone years of your life trying to validate or disprove.

  • by JustOK (667959)

    He thinks they're offering him a milli-dollar. Good in math, not so good in English comprehension.

  • by xirtam_work (560625) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#32775912)

    How about they put the prize money into a scholarship fund. Surely he couldn't object to this. He could outline the type of benefactor he'd like to receive a stipend from time to time and leave the actual selection to a committee formed by associates of the Millennium Prize board.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:21PM (#32776050)
    "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

    .
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <{taiki} {at} {cox.net}> on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:25PM (#32776110)

    it's Field*s* Medal. Named after the Canadian mathematician, John Charles Fields.

    Not Field Medal.

  • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:25PM (#32776122)

    It's an amazing demonstration of intellectual honesty. I'm in no way denigrating his contribution but the essential breakthrough was made by Hamilton's use of the Ricci Flow. However he's no doubt brilliant and the beauty of his solution seems to be enough for him.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:35PM (#32777454)
    Narrator: Meanwhile, at the International Conference of Mathematics...

    (In a oak-walled conference room, about two dozen bearded and bespeckled men gathered around a long table, cluttered with papers, a large blackboard on the wall full of figures, cross-outs and erase marks. The man at the center of the table stands from his chair and wearily proclaims:)

    Conference Leader: Well, gentlemen, I fear a solution to the Riemann hypothesis eludes us once again...

    (Suddenly, a masked man bursts through the conference room doors.)

    All: It's the Lone Mathematician!

    LM: Gentlemen, I believe this is what you're looking for! (Slaps a paper on the desk. They all look down at it, then look up astonished)

    All: A solution to the Riemann hypothesis! BUT HOW!?

    CL (holding up the paper): So elegant and precise, and yet so simple! You're a man of true genius!

    LM: I'm merely standing on the shoulders of giants, gentlemen.

    (The Lone Mathematician gracefully leaps onto a nearby windowsill and steps out. They all run to the window and look down, seeing that he has jumped onto the back of a horse in the courtyard.)

    LM (riding off): Hi Ho Sliderule, Away!!

    CL: Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him...

    .
  • If this guy were smart he'd take the money and use it to sustain himself in a way that would completely enable him to be free to pursue his interests. If it bothers him that much just take the damn money and donate it to some charity.

    Say what you will, I think him refusing the money comes down to him being eccentric. Perhaps in his mind he's decided he's not going to live by human conventions. I'll give him credit in that regard. People are constantly being told, "be yourself". But what that actually means

  • Give it to his elderly mother, who is taking care of him.

    She deserves it.

    --
    BMO

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

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