Tuesday, August 22, 2006

News Stories

I heard two interesting stories on the news this morning.

A Russian mathematician, Grigory Perelman, has won the Fields award for solving a mathematical problem that has baffled great minds for over 100 years. The award carries a $1,000,000 prize, but Perelman didn't go to Canada to receive it. He's reclusive and apparently was tracked down by the press in St. Petersburg, where he lives with his mother and declined an interview, saying that nothing he had to say would be of interest to anyone.

The math problem, the Poincare Conjecture, was raised in 1904 and deals with the theoretical shifting of lines to a point on non-spherical shapes (like one with a hole, such as a doughnut) -- fourth dimension stuff. The mathematician I heard interviewed said that only about 20 people in the world understands Perelman's solution and he and his team had written an explanation of it that was over 400 pages long! He raised the point that the solution shows how much is to be gained by long periods of quiet thought.

The next story I heard was about the Pakistan's forfeited test match against England in cricket. The honor of the Indian sub-continent is at stake here, as the Pakistanis were accused of tampering with the ball (a great offense) by the Australian umpire. As a result of the furor over this, India and Pakistan -- long-time enemies -- are now united against what they believe is prejudice against the Asian world on the part of the umpire, who has the unfortunate name of Hair. Though Americans won't even notice it, this is a major scandal in the cricket world and will matter to a lot of people around the world.

With the world seemingly on the brink of blowing up (reminding me of the "Eve of Destruction" of my younger days), I really enjoy these stories. I often get so disturbed by the wars and rumors of wars, that I don't want to hear, see or read the news. Stories like these, though remind me that the Lord has given us an interesting and complex world, and I need to see that some people are putting their minds and energy toward something other than figuring out how to kill the 'other guy' -- even if that something else is conflict on the cricket crease.

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