Friday, May 06, 2011

Math whizz solves century old problem, says no thanks to $1 million

The Poincare conjecture has stumped math whizzes since 1904. The math community spent the last century trying to solve the theorem’s proposal that any shape without a hole can be fashioned into a sphere. Not too difficult-sounding, right? Wrong—the theorem’s noggin-scratching complexity turned it into one of math’s Holy Grails.

Fast-forward to 2002 and 2003 when Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman published two proofs of the seemingly unsolvable problem. A team composed of the world’s top mathematicians spent eight years confirming Perelman’s results, validating his results just last year.

So what did Perelman get for all his hard work? Nope, not a vintage TI-82. He received a one million dollar prize and the Fields medal (like the Oscars of math). Rather than take the money and go for a much-deserved vacay, the private math genius refused the cash, saying acknowledgement for solving the conjecture was reward enough.

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