About the title

About the title

I changed the title of the blog on March 20, 2013 (it used to have the title “Notes of an owl”). This was my immediate reaction to the news the T. Gowers was presenting to the public the works of P. Deligne on the occasion of the award of the Abel prize to Deligne in 2013 (by his own admission, T. Gowers is not qualified to do this).

The issue at hand is not just the lack of qualification; the real issue is that the award to P. Deligne is, unfortunately, the best compensation to the mathematical community for the 2012 award of Abel prize to Szemerédi. I predicted Deligne before the announcement on these grounds alone. I would prefer if the prize to P. Deligne would be awarded out of pure appreciation of his work.

I believe that mathematicians urgently need to stop the growth of Gowers's influence, and, first of all, his initiatives in mathematical publishing. I wrote extensively about the first one; now there is another: to take over the arXiv overlay electronic journals. The same arguments apply.

Now it looks like this title is very good, contrary to my initial opinion. And there is no way back.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who will get Fields medals in less than two hours?

Previous post: About expository writing: a reply to posic

At 10:30 p.m. US Eastern Summer time, the winner of this (2014) year Fields medals will be announced in Seoul.

I would like to post my current guess, mostly to have a record of it with the date and time stamp from Google, at least for myself.

As I wrote about one year ago, I believe that I would be able to predict the actual winners if I would know the composition of the Fields medals committee. But I don't. I am not particularly interested in the names of the winners, so I did not attempted to find out the actual winners, who are known for at least three months already, and who are known to the press for at least two weeks already (if the practice of the last two congresses was continued). So, my guess is a guess and not based on any inside sources.

And the winner are (expected to be):

Artur Avila - my confidence is over 95-99%.

One of the winners will be a woman - my confidence is over 95%. This is a pure politics. This deserves a separate discussion. The main obstruction to the Fields medal for a woman is not the discrimination, but the absurd age restriction. Most likely, she is

Sophie Morel - my confidence is over 80%. There are political consideration against her. For example, she would be the 3rd medalist who was a student of Gérard Laumon.

Jacob Lurie - my confidence is about 60%. This is my favorite candidate. He will get it if Harvard has enough political clout now. So, it is a measure of the influence of the Harvard Department of Mathematics, and not of the level of J. Lurie as a mathematician.

Manjul Bhargava - my confidence is less than 50%. If Sophie Morel gets a medal, his chances are much lower than otherwise: two mathematicians from the same university (Princeton).

Following the tradition firmly established since 1990, one of the medals should go a "Russian" mathematician, no matter where she or he is working know and where she or he completed Ph.D. I don't see any suitable candidate. Some people were naming Alexei Borodin, but I was firmly told that he will not get one.

A couple of days ago a strange, apparently unmotivated idea come to my mind: one of the winners will be from Stanford. Some people were naming Maryam Mirzakhani, but, again, a couple of days ago was firmly told that she is not the winner. Her work is interesting and close to my own interests. In my personal opinion, she has some very good results, but nothing of the Fields medal level. I would estimate the number of mathematician of about her level or higher, working in closely related areas, as at least 2-3 dozens. Of course, I am not aware about her most recent unpublished (at least on the web) work.

Next post: And who actually got Fields medals?


  1. ”Some people were naming Maryam Mirzakhani, but, again, a couple of days ago was firmly told that she is not the winner.“

  2. Your profound commentary is deeply appreciated.

  3. Well, Mirzakhani was appointed a full prof at Stanford merely 4 years after PhD. Such fast appreciation is rare indeed. Her claim to fame is the proof of Thurston's "earthquake flow" conjecture. Can you comment on the problem and the extent of the originality of the solution?

  4. Xaxam: What about Sophie Morel? She was appointed a full professor at Harvard merely 4 years after Ph.D., and merely 3 years later she moved to Princeton.

    Was it a "conjecture"? She does not refer to this theorem as a proof of a conjecture. Most of her IMRN paper about this theorem is devoted to outlines of various ideas of other people, plus ideas from her Ph.D. (do you remember the "Dieudonne test"?). As of the originality, let me quote the paper:

    "The key tool in proving Corollary 1.2 in general is the work of Thurston and Bonahon [35], [2] on horocycle foliations and shear coordinates for the Teichmuller space and the space of measured foliations. As we will see later, this construction is a natural generalization of the Fenchel–Nielsen coordinates for the Teichmuller space."

    Corollary 1.2. is the "earthquake flow" theorem. The second phrase does not refer to her work; these gadgets were defined as a generalization of the F-N coordinates.

    I used to think her claim to the fame is the 3rd (approximately) proof of Witten's conjecture.