After looking through the Internet, I see that there is still a huge and lively interest in the personality of Grigori Perelman really all over the world (without exaggeration). The available reactions range from outrageous antisemitic attacks till near-deification – and these both extremes make me very sad. Still, to be fully correct, this is a mixture of emotions: I am sad and I am glad at the same time. I am glad, because Grisha’s “gig” could have left an appreciable trace in our souls. This is why, I have decided to post one more entry on this very important theme. Long Live The True Professionals !
Let us chronologically start with the Nobel Foundation. This is an extreme case. Even without looking into the personalities of the winners, the very idea to award this prize every year without fail is corrupt. Besides, the sources of the money used to pay the awarded sum are not rarely very unclean. In many cases, political, corporative or other interests overbalance all the scientific and professional values, respectively – which is a direct logical consequence of using unclean money sources: who is paying tries always to lead everybody by the nose.
This is actually what J.-P. Sartre and Le Duc Tho wanted to show.
The Really True Achievements of the Human Spirit come once in a blue moon. People who really manage to achieve something great are as a rule not anticipating the result and not really interested in it, they are simply fascinated by the very process of Finding The Truth. But, sure – human beings are weak, so that they could relatively easily be “bought” by all these “prizes”, “awards” etc.. And as a result, these “human purchases” are getting caught into the bizarre, mercantile, picayune, cruel society, where the words like “moral”, “ethics”, “honour” etc are foreign. Such a “phase transition” does not cancel the importance of this or that systematic work, invention or serendipity – but it abruptly cancels the moral, ethical value of the respective researcher – or – inventor – or – discoverer … Here you will definitely ask: why ???
In fact, not only in maths – but in all scientific branches, be these any kind of natural science, technology or humanities, the True Scientific Workers, The True Professionals have lots of ancestors. The Idea cannot be born out of Nothing: There were – and are – many fruitful Ideas before this one. And this particular Idea will never be the ultimate solution to all of our problems: If it is really fruitful, it will surely generate a huge number of further ones – and so on, so forth – ad infinitum. The True Scientific Research is a continuous web which extends through the space and time, through the continents, through the history.
Thus, if to judge all the situation in the True Science honestly, it is not really clear, who exactly should be awarded. In effect, throwing this “piece of bone” to one (or several) person(s) unavoidably diminishes the achievements of hundreds of others in the eyes of the rest of the mankind. Clearly, this is sheer unjustice. In this particular case of Dr. Perelman, we have witnessed two basic reactions to this unjustice: Dr. Yau’s and Grisha’s. The former is a reaction of a typical carnivore (which is, regretfully, the most frequent type of human reaction !). The latter is a reaction of the True Human Being, so drastically rare throughout the millennia of our history …
This is just what – however, not literally, of course – Grisha Perelman has expressed in his rare interviews.
Regretfully, all the modern academic society has arrived at a massive corruption all over the world, with the latter process being effectively catalyzed by the globalization. Just look at all these “tenures”, “tenure-tracks”, “quota-hires”, “research grants” – in a nutshell: all these glimpses of the true, gruesome and ferocious “mediaeval feudalism” – even within the well-developed democratic societies ! Since a considerable period of time, there is an invisible, but well-sensible, “barricade” between the True Scientists and those “award winners”, the “academic schmuck” interested solely in increasing their own social recognition at any price. On the one side of the barricade – the True Professional Work, on the other – nothing but a “cockroach race”.
That the above-mentioned “barricade” is sensible has been demonstrated one-and-a-half month ago at the University of Alabama-Huntsville by Amy Bishop. This is also a variant of the reaction to unjustice. Of course, the Amy-Bishop-like and Yau-like reactions are not acceptable at all – whereas Grisha’s reaction is definitely the only possible, the only acceptable one.
It is high time that we, the mankind, start to tackle the problem of this long-standing unjustice. And the very starting point of the scrutiny, to my mind, ought to be the so-called “scientifically inspired awards”.
Added on 18.04.2010-10.05.2010: The continuation of this story is here: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/blog/9293-very-same-grisha-perelman-about-masha-gessens-book-perfect-rigor.html and here: http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/blog/9293-grigori-perelman-facebook-and-talk-show-russian-tv-yet-another-slumdog-millionaire.html. Yes, stay tuned – there will definitely be more interesting news about Grisha – for example, he has refused to participate in the so-called “Russian Silicon Valley” project: http://bnott.com/33917.html …
Added on 14.05.2010: In his review on Masha Gessen’s Grisha Perelman book published in the “Nature”, George Szpiro is speaking in high terms of the quality of her journalist analysis, but adds the following remark:
“One person who knows the Russian mathematician’s true motives is John Ball, the then-president of the International Mathematical Union who travelled to St Petersburg in an attempt to persuade Perelman to accept the award. Ball reveals only that Perelman was allegedly disappointed by the dishonourable behaviour of some unnamed mathematicians. Gessen, by proffering gratuitous speculations, both misleads the reader and does Perelman grave injustice.
Until 2006, the Poincaré conjecture was one of the most famous open problems in maths; now it is one more theorem. For Perelman, proving the conjecture was sufficient reward in itself — no prize or recognition was needed. Perfect Rigor reminds us that it is journalists and the public who want more.”