The Nobel Prize in Mathematics: four scientists win, including a woman

Four mathematicians won the Fields Medal, which is described as the “Nobel Prize in Mathematics,” in Helsinki on Tuesday, including Ukraine’s Marina Vyazovska, the second woman to win this prestigious award since it was launched in 1936.

Other winners of this four-year medal are Frenchman Ugo Dominelle Cobain, US-based South Korean scholar John Huh, and British James Maynard.

This medal is awarded by the International Mathematical Union and is accompanied by a financial reward of C $ 15,000 ($ 11,500). Honor the “outstanding discoveries” of mathematicians under the age of 40.

The winners were announced at a ceremony held in the Finnish capital as part of the International Conference of Mathematicians. The event was supposed to be held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, but the organizers of the ceremony moved it to Helsinki due to the war in Ukraine.

“The barbaric war that Russia continues to wage against Ukraine left no other choice,” said the president of the International Mathematical Union Carlos Kenning at the opening of the event.

Pride of France

Ugo Dominelle Coppin, a statistical physicist, became the thirteenth Frenchman to receive the Fields medal. The latest of these French was Cedric Vianney, who won the award in 2010.

“Congratulations! This honor shows the vitality and excellence of our French school of mathematics,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. “I feel very proud. Ugo Dominelle Coppin is a somewhat out of the ordinary figure, given his excellent biography and also the dynamism of teamwork” he showed in the scientific community.

The 36-year-old Frenchman Hugo Dominelle Cobain is devoted to statistical physics. This probabilistic mathematician and university professor since the age of twenty-nine is divided between the Institute of Higher Scientific Studies near Paris and the Swiss University of Geneva. “Statistical physics is it studio of the properties of complex systems. I’m trying to understand how some phase transitions happen, like in the case of magnets, “said Dominelle Cobain, who attended the awards ceremony, along with the other three winners. She received the award after solving” chronic problems related to the theory. phase transition probabilistics, “which allowed for the opening of” new directions of research, “according to the award committee. These trends include applications as diverse as urban flow management, weather forecasting, the spread of infectious diseases, and magnetic resonance.

“My life has changed forever”

As for Marina Vyazovska, the second woman to win the award since it was launched eight decades ago, she was born 37 years ago. in Ukraine during the Soviet Union era. Since 2017 she is a professor at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, in Swiss.

He said that during Russia’s launch of the invasion of Ukraine in February, “my life has changed forever.”

And the mathematician won the pre-war prize for solving a version of a centuries-old geometric problem by demonstrating the densest stacking of identical spheres outside three-dimensional space, in this case the eighth dimension in where symmetry is optimal.

The “compact stacking problem”, more commonly known as the “orange trader problem”, has haunted mathematicians since the 16th century, when the question arose of stacking as many cannonballs as possible. “Mathematicians have had great difficulty solving this problem for decades, even the greatest specialists have given up,” Renaud Colangon, a lecturer at the French University of Bordeaux, told AFP. Marina Vyazowska managed to make a “big breach” by finding “magic proof” of optimal stacking in this dimension, according to the mathematician.

Stacks of large balls are useful, for example, for error correction codes for disturbances in communication signals. In 2014, Iranian Maryam Mirzakhani, who died of cancer three years later, was the first woman to win the Fields Medal. British James Maynard, 35, also a professor at Oxford University in Great Britain was awarded this medal “for his contributions to analytic number theory, which have led to significant advances in understanding the structure of numbers,” according to the Fields Medal Committee. This Oxford University professor studies prime numbers, which are still poorly understood and which are divisible only by integers other than 1 and by themselves. The British winner summed up his work by saying: “I seek order in complex things”. For his part, 39-year-old Princeton professor John Huh was chosen to win the award in recognition of its “transformation” in the field of harmonic geometry “using the methods of Hodge theory, equatorial geometry and singularity theory”. “I grew up in Korea and I dreamed of being a poet. With math, I wander into my geometric fantasy world, “Jun Hoo said.