In a world where fame and money (I used “money” because I don’t see it as “fortune”) seems to be the only things matter these days, the Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman is a totally different breed.
Before we talk about that one-million US dollars, let me say, what Grigory has achieved may take years to understand and apply in the academic world and our society. My standard example is that no one, mathematicians included, had thought of the study of prime numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, …) will have such a profound impact on the world. All of our e-commerce relies on encryption and the most popular encryption system today relies on the difficulty to factoring really large numbers into their prime components, known as RSA for the public or Clifford Cocks for those that had the Top Secret clearance and the need to know. (smile, see J. H. Ellis’ “The history of Non-Secret Encryption” PKC for more) Well, I digress. Shall we get back to that million dollars ?
As reported in my previous blog and to no one in the math community’s surprises, Grigory has won a Fields Medal, mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize. And the International Mathematical Union has also indirectly confirmed/suggested in Grigory’s Fields Medal citation that he should also win that one-million US dollars prize as promised by the Clay Mathematics Institute.
Well, as speculated correctly by me and many others, Grigory has refused to accept his Fields Medal as he “does not want to be seen as its [International Mathematical Union] figurehead.” And it may not be surprising to anyone that Grigory will likely also refuse the one-million US dollars prize that he deserves. (May be Grigory can donate his one-million US dollars to Grameen Bank, my favourite bank for the poor, to create more “tiny loans” or microloan. At the end, the decision is for Grigory to make.)
Years ago, one of my hero Richard Feynman (check out his happy drumming pix) thought of refusing his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, but he “chickened out” as he realized a refusal might have caused him more headaches. Now, 41 years later, Grigory Perelman has made history by refusing his Fields Medal. I wish Grigory all the best and hope he will finish off a few more nagging open problems for us.
Note: The irony has not been lost on me that my hero Dick Feynman thought of refusing his Nobel Prize. Whereas I had an acceptance speech for getting a t-shirt !!!! Sean, that t-shirt better be made of gold or something. (smile)
“What do you care what other people think?” – Richard P. Feynman