Just a Thought about Poincaré
by Boris Shekhtman
Andrei Okounkov, Grigori Perelman, Terence Tao, Wendelin Werner. Which of these names sounds familiar? If you circled Perelman you are not alone. I do not remember when so many people from different walks of life asked me about a mathematician:
“Do you know the dude? What’s he done?”
“Not personally but he solved the Poincaré Conjecture.”
“He proved that a 3-dimensional, simply-connected manifold is homeomorphic to a sphere”
Then after a pause, “Yeah, whatever, dude. What do you think? Is he nuts?”
So who is Perelman and why is he crazy?
Grigori “Grisha” Perelman, WJM, 40, mathematician, lives as a recluse in St. Petersburg, Russia, in small one-bedroom apartment with his mother. Favorite activities include opera, long walks through the woods, gathering berries, mushrooms, and thinking. In 2002, posted a proof of Poincaré Conjecture. Awarded Fields Medal, the traditional “Nobel of mathematics” in August 2006, but declined to accept the prize. In search of: Friends. (They don’t have to be mathematicians).
Refusing the medal brought him (and the Poincaré Conjecture) the notoriety. The other three people mentioned at the beginning of this article also received Fields Medals but accepted them and went unnoticed. Grisha stole the limelight. In December, 2006, (four years after the discovery but a few months after the refusal) the journal Science recognized Perelman’s proof of the Poincaré Conjecture as the scientific “Breakthrough of the Year”, the first such recognition in mathematics.
He certainly got more
fame than he would had he accepted. In the minus column, he is out about ten
thousand bucks (after taxes). You do the math. Power…? That remains to be seen, but
according to The New Yorker, another
former Fields Medal laureate, Shing-Tung Yau, attempted to “use” Perelman’s work
to gain absolute power over mathematics in
Is there a woman? Well…you read his personal.
Yet there may be a profound wisdom to his actions. A job in academia awards us the luxury of having a day or so per week that I like to call “A Thinking Day.” A day, completely void of anything mundane, spent in joy of thinking about anything that comes to mind. No guilt, no interruptions, just me and my thoughts. An intellectual Sabbath if you will. So ... maybe the “dude” is brave enough to give himself a “Thinking Life.” Have you ever thought of that? I have (on my Thinking Day, of course).
And then… maybe he is simply nuts!
The R. Kent Nagle Lecture Series
(ordinary differential) equations are extensions of
These equations are very difficult to solve, and the Clay Institute has offered $ 1,000,000 for a tractable solution as one of the seven “millennial problems” in modern mathematics.
Fang-Hua Lin, Silver Professor of Mathematics at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU and recipient of a Sloan fellowship, a Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Bochner Prize, and the Chern Prize, came to USF last spring to outline some of the problems facing mathematicians who try to solve these equations.
The equations start with the “conservation of mass”: as a liquid or gas flows, none can appear or disappear. So one starts by formulating the statement the amount of matter does not change; it can only move from one place to another. These statements are differential equations with unknowns: do solutions for these unknowns exist? And assuming that the equations are correct and solvable, how might we compute these solutions?
The Nagle Lecture Series was established in honor of the late R. Kent Nagle, a mathematician deeply interested in mathematics in itself, in education and in society. In this spirit, the NLS invites world renowned scholars to speak on mathematics in lectures designed for the general public.
The next Nagle Lecture will be on November 1, when John H. Conway will speak at 7:30 pm in BSF 100. His talk will lead into the Knotting Mathematics and Art Conference. For more information, consult the event web-page http://www.math.usf.edu/~saito/Nagle/conway.html.
this summer. He received his Master's
degree in Applied Mathematics from
Meanwhile, Catherine Bènèteau, Brendan Nagle, and Dmitry Khavinson joined our faculty during the 2006-2007 academic year.
Catherine Bènèteau received her Ph.D.
from the State University of New York at
Dmitry “Dima” Khavinson came to us from
the National Science Foundation, where he was the Program Director in Analysis,
and before that Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the
Brendan Nagle received his PhD from
Khavinson’s work in gravitational
microlensing got him an invitation to be a plenary speaker at New Trends in
Complex and Harmonic Analysis in
Wen-Xiu Ma served as President of the Chinese-American Association of Tampa Bay and co-edited a special issue on Topics on Integrable Systems in the Journal of Computational and Applied Mathematics.
Jogi Ratti and Marcus McWaters have published a new text, College Algebra, with “a strong emphasis on both concept development and real-life applications.” Published by Pearson/Addison-Wesley, it is designed to help students “find mathematics useful and interesting.”
Vilmos Totik has co-authored a book, Problems and Theorems in Set Theory,
with Peter Komjáth of
Yuncheng You will be visiting
USF Math Club Activities
Last year, the MAA Student
Chapter was led by Denise Kalos (President),
Members attended the 2006 MAA Suncoast Meeting at Hillsborough Community College, the 2007 MAA Florida Section Meeting at FSU (where Matthew Williamson gave a talk), and the 2007 MAA/AMS Joint Meetings at New Orleans; we are grateful to the USF Student Government, the Math & Stat Department, and generous donors for financial support.
PME and the Math &
Stat Department twice hosted the biannual Hillsborough County Math Bowl, to
which all Hillsborough County High Schools send their best math students to
complete in individual and as team categories. About 400 students and teachers
showed up at the USF Sun dome in November, 2006 and April, 2007 for a half-day
of mathematical competitions in algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and calculus.
Overall winner bragging rights went to
Sandra Bird, Egor Dolzhenko, Dewey Estep, Lisa Fazio, Amanda Griffith, Elizabeth Kieran and Oleg Polupan reviewed a chapter of a new calculus book published by Freeman Publishing Co., which awarded the Math Club $500.00 for this work.
The PME’s annual
banquet in April featured thirteen new members: Joy D’Andrea, Gary Dowd, Zach
Jett, Dahomey Kadera, Kenneth Killian, John M. Kowalik, Jill Lusk,
Ten students were awarded
doctorates between June 2006 and June 2007 (the dissertation director is in
parentheses): Kheira Ameur
(Masahiko Saito), Gokarna R. Aryal (Chris P. Tsokos), Louis R. Camara (Chris P.
Tsokos), Edgardo S. Cureg (Arunava Mukherjea), Jemal E. Gishe (Mourad E. H.
Ismail), Abdelelah M. Mostafa (Kandethody Ramachandran), Joni B. Pirnot
Twelve students were awarded masters degrees: Hari P. Adhikari, Anand Ravindra Bhat, Chunling Cong, Natalie Davis, Sandra D. Draper, Sasko Ivanov, David Paul Nezelek, Thucdoan T. Nguyen, Wilkistar Otieno, Andrew Purcell, Arnut Paothong, and Yiting Yu.
Twenty-five students were awarded bacca-laureate degrees: Eric Adams; Nichole Blaquiere; Oscar Castro; Jason Copenhaver, Magna Cum Laude; Daniel Cordeiro; Lisa Fazio, Cum Laude; Casey Garrett; Melody Goodenough, Magna Cum Laude; Amanda Griffith, Cum Laude; Matthew Grace; Melissa Holmes; Crystal Johns; Juliana Kamenica; Elisabeth Kieran, Magna Cum Laude; Sherry Lashley, Magna Cum Laude; Jason Paradis; Oleg Polupan, Magna Cum Laude; Uriana Ponson; Marcus Rodriguez; Cassaundra Slessman; Sherry Taylor, Magna Cum Laude; Aichuc Truong; Vien Truong; Shannon Watkins; and Rachel Zemetres.
Center for Mathematical Services
The thirtieth consecutive
USF summer program for gifted and high ability students ran from July 3 to
August 10. The program was divided
into two levels, each level having three components: Mathematics, Computer
Science, and Environmental Science.
Level I, for students entering grades 8-10, had 37 students and was
Justin Norris of
We had a very successful program in 2007 and look forward to an even better program in 2008.