“Turning a doughnut into a ball was trivial! Next time I am sober, I’ll turn it into a barrel of votka!”
A reclusive Russian won the math world’s highest honor Tuesday for solving a problem that has stumped some of the discipline’s greatest minds for a century — but he refused the award.
The Poincare conjecture essentially says that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere. Proving the conjecture — an exercise in acrobatics with mind-boggling imaginary doughnuts and balls — is anything but trivial. Colleagues say Perelman’s work gives mathematical descriptions of what the universe might look like and promises exciting applications in physics and other fields. more