A broken system and a "nobody"

Grigori Perelman, best known for resolving the Poincaré Conjecture and declining a $1,000,000 prize for doing so, is unemployed and living with his mother.

Deepwank's comments about him on reddit.
This is a tough question to answer in a short comment, but I'll try to give a brief summary. Perelman himself felt a deep sense of isolation from the mathematical community. He was polite, but firm in his insistence that he did not want to be a figurehead or a representative of the community. He had an ideal picture in his mind: 1) people do mathematics because they love it, and this love should transcend jealousy or rivalry; 2) credit will always be given when it's due, and mathematicians should acknowledge it and share it when it's appropriate; 3) it is far better to publish a good result rarely than mediocre results often.
Perelman realized that none of these principles actually held true in the mathematical community. He realized that the way one gets a post-doc or permanent position had to do a lot with string-pulling and secret phone calls in the background, rather than by the merit of one's work. If you don't ally yourself with an influential person or kiss the appropriate ass, you won't get a position, and this is what he realized. You may read in his wiki biography that he rejected a lot of positions in the US after proving the soul conjecture in 1994, but he actually applied for these same positions immediately after receiving his PhD and was rejected. One can argue that he wasn't yet accomplished enough, but that's a shady argument, since the people that were getting these same positions had arguably accomplished less than Perelman at the time. By the mid-nineties, he was already jaded, and word was that he saw a taste of his colleagues' jealousy in the Soviet Union which he couldn't really understand, though you and I probably would. His conception of doing mathematics was unreasonably pure: if you really love mathematics, you celebrate the results of others, even if they beat you to the punch and prove something you've been working on your whole life.
The credit aspect is shaky too. Mathematicians are always fighting over credit for various results, and due to the timeless nature of mathematical results, citation is extremely important. But as soon as Perelman posted his work on the arXiv, it was a race between the other leading geometers to basically fill in the details of Perelman's proof, make it more readable, and publish it as soon as possible. Make no mistake, it was clear that this was Perelman's work being repackaged and everyone knew it, but those geometers couldn't resist the credit they would receive for merely explaining what Perelman did to other geometers. And hell why not, after all it's yet another publication in an excellent journal.
Which brings me to the last point, and this one is far more poisonous to mathematics. In an effort to maximize publication lists, people publish crap. Lemmas become propositions, and propositions become theorems. It's sad thatthe number of publications has any bearing on your worth as a mathematician. It's more understandable in fields like engineering, computer science, biology, and even physics. But proving a worthwhile mathematical theorem takes a long fucking time, even for geniuses. So what do most career mathematicians do? They publish whatever they can get away with. Perelman returned to the Steklov Institute after proving the soul conjecture for a simple research position in order to quietly go about doing math. He was working on the Poincare Conjecture the whole time he was there, and in the meantime didn't publish at all. Rumor has it (and it's a very plausible rumor) that the department chairman at Steklov threatened to fire Perelman for not publishing anything in years. It isn't clear whether Perelman was waiting to finish the proof or if he was boycotting math journals altogether, but it took him from 1995 to 2002 to finish his work. He was irritated with having his position threatened and for his bosses to only care about the quantity of his research output rather than the quality.
However, he still cared enough about mathematics to give a series of lectures and talks after he proved Poincare, to try to explain to other mathematicians how his use of Ricci flow solved the problem. It took the leading geometers 3 years to really understand his proof, upon which the community wanted to shower him with awards. But, Perelman was already ticked off with the mathematical community and his own boss at Steklov, that he quit his position less than a year after posting his proof to the arXiv, after he had done his US circuit explaining his work.
Rejecting the prizes wasn't the action of a troubled genius or a mentally unstable person. He just didn't want to represent the same group that had betrayed the principles they themselves had set. That being said, it may be likely he was a troubled genius or mentally unstable. But in all accounts of him refusing the prizes, he was calm, polite, and firm. There was no emotion or wavering.
And while the layman dismisses Perelman's refusals of the prize as foolish, most mathematicians do not. It is because deep down we realize that our system is broken and corrupted, that there aren't enough jobs to go around, and many people with serious talent are either quitting or changing fields because of how jobs are handed out. Those who mock Perelman for living with his mother, tending her flowerbed, are free to do so. I assure you Perelman doesn't care. He has nothing left to prove.
Read this today.

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White

Colors of Life

Holi is a fun festival. The thing that interests me more, is that everyone uses the phrase the phrase they use to wish everybody on this day.

So what are the colors of Life ? I guess i has to do with the way we associate colors with our emotions. An evolutionary remnant ?

Should you paint me in red, when i am angry. Should you paint me in Blue, when i am at peace. Is just one color enough to paint someone anytime ?

Even if we paint a very complete picture of such emotions, will that be enough ? Maybe we could use 10 different colors or maybe 100 different colors, even a million colors . Will it be enough then ?

What if i paint with a million colors and you can see the world only in black, white and the shades of grey ? What if i could only paint with a 8 color palette and you can see all the faults with your million color palette. Maybe the key is not to paint a picture rich in colors but to use the right colors so that the people around us can see the same picture as we intended it to be seen.

If i am the only one who can enjoy my painting, Is it still a good painting ? Are colors of our lives, as colorful, if we could never share it with anybody else.

Questions and Answers

Questions and answers have always had a complex relationship. One does not exist without the other but then, they are also polar opposites. Answers have always been the rockstars in this relationship, while the questions seldom reveal themselves once the Answer shows up. A Perfect question with a wrong answer at the right time solves more problem then a perfect answer to a wrong question.

Nobody shouts "Eureka, Eureka" and runs naked in the street for coming up with a great question. Nobody is given a better grade for writing an intelligent question in their exam sheets. Maybe we should.

Why, What , How , When and who ?

I have been searching for answers to a lot of question a long time. A what will lead to an How and an How leads to a why ?. I hate the Why's, they are a dead end. I have realized that i will never find the answer to these questions of mine. I began to think that the questions would never die without a successful answer, and die they must for my happiness. I couldn't have been more wrong for Questions seldom die when we find an answer, it only dies when we choose not to pursue it. For that factor so do many things in life; love, ambition and success are few more things that never die unless we choose not to pursue it.

The only way to happiness with these unanswerable questions in life seems to be the way to enjoy the questions themselves and the pursuit of the answer itself.

This post was Inspired by a Neil deGrasse Tyson Quote
"Answers are a luxury enjoyed only every now and then. So early on, learn to love the questions themselves."


"We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience." - Joan Didion

Sometimes i think the one of the main reason i like this quote from Joan Didion in her book The White Album, is because of the word Phantasmagoria. I am not sure, how people fall in love with a word, maybe its the way it sounds, maybe its because words are a poets currency,maybe its because of the power of a single world to explain, what that could not be expressed in a thousand sentences.

Life is a Phantasmagoria.

I recently saw a bunch of pics in Facebook about the kid with a specific type of cancer. Those were horrible pics and most of the comments was requests to take it down. Everybody knows that this kind of things happens and its the fact of life. But why do we run away from seeing it. Why do we earn so much to make our own version of an happy reality and lie to ourselves to be happy. If Life was supposed to be a Phantasmagoria, why did i buy a ticket to the puppet show.

There is something about chennai'ish style

more to come still searching for that tea stall video...