The Econophysics Blog

This blog is dedicated to exploring the application of quantiative tools from mathematics, physics, and other natural sciences to issues in finance, economics, and the social sciences. The focus of this blog will be on tools, methodology, and logic. This blog will also occasionally delve into philosophical issues surrounding quantitative finance and quantitative social science.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Grigori Perelman - The Tolstoy of Math?

I thought some more about the situation since writing about it in a previous blog post: Waiting for Grisha: What REALLY Happened to The Man Who Proved the Poincare Conjecture (Aug. 24, 2006). As a reminder, Dr. Perelman seems to have succeeded in proving the as well as the more general (both conjectures are from and relate to the idea that geometric structures can be deformed into some basic 'shapes' identified by mathematicians).

His refusal to accept the Fields Medal has been attributed -- unfortunately in my opinion -- to some sort of eccentricity on the part of Dr. Perelman. As I wrote in the blog post, I feel that (and this is backed up by some evidence from Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber's New Yorker article, Manifold Destiny) the more plausible reason behind Dr. Perelman's declining the honor had to do more with his desire to uphold his high moral, ethical, and intellectual standards rather than to the less than flattering reasons offered up by most of the press and by (again, unfortunately) some mathematicians. As Dr. Perelman himself so eloquently put it (in the New Yorker article): “'It is not people who break ethical standards who are regarded as aliens,' he said. 'It is people like me who are isolated.'”

All of this reminded me of another Russian who possessed both a great intellect and a great sense of moral integrity: . Like Dr. Perelman, Tolstoy -- after giving the world some of the best novels ever written (War and Peace, Anna Karenina) -- retired to an ascetic/quasi-monastic life motivated by a deep sense of personal morality and ethical integrity.

So it is my sincere hope that Grisha Perelman will not be seen as some sort of 'nutty professor' -- has he has been unfairly portrayed by many in the press and by some mathematicians -- but will, instead, be seen as the 'Tolstoy of .'


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