Monday, September 18, 2006

Perelmania II

I just received the following press release (?!?) from S.T. Yau's attorney (actually, via a public relations firm, presumably retained by Yau or his attorney). Nasar and Gruber's article on Perelman, Yau and the Fields medal was pretty tough on Yau, and I'm not very surprised by this response. If the authors and fact checkers can't substantiate all the nasty things said about Yau, they'll be quite sorry.

The formal complaint letter sent to the authors and the New Yorker is here. It is quite long and detailed.

Since I don't want to be sued, I'm not going to comment on any of this :-)

Harvard Math Professor Alleges Defamation by New Yorker Article; Demands Correction

Leading Math Scholars Decry Fictions Surrounding Fields Medal, Letter Says

BOSTON, September 18, 2006 – Pulitzer-prize winner Sylvia Nasar (“A Beautiful Mind”) defamed world renowned Harvard mathematics professor Dr. Shing-Tung Yau, in an article about a noteworthy mathematical proof in The New Yorker magazine entitled “Manifold Destiny” (August 28, 2006), according to a letter written by Dr. Yau’s attorney, Howard M. Cooper of Todd & Weld LLP of Boston. In the letter, Dr. Yau has demanded that The New Yorker and Nasar make a prominent correction of the errors in the article, and apologize for an insulting illustration that accompanied it.

“Beyond repairing the damage to my own reputation, we seek to minimize the damage done to the mathematics community itself, which is ludicrously portrayed as contentious rather than cooperative and more competitive than collegial,” Dr. Yau said. “Mathematicians from the foremost institutions – from Beijing to Berkeley – have been appalled at the fictionalizing of our profession.”

The attorney letter alleges that Ms. Nasar misrepresented her intentions in emails to him in which she claimed an interest in the “reuniting of physics and mathematics” and that she had been impressed with praise of his work from Stephen Hawking. Never during the three months in which she worked on the article, according to the letter, was Dr. Yau made aware of or asked to respond to charges leveled against him in the published article, claiming that Dr. Yau was trying to take credit for the solution of the PoincarĂ© Conjecture away from Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman. Contrary to the article, there has never been a ‘battle’ over credit for the solution, said the letter. Many of the other scholars interviewed by Ms. Nasar report being similarly deceived, according to the letter, with one professor at the University of Michigan comparing her work to that of the notorious fabricator, Jason Blair of The New York Times.

Shing-Tung Yau, a professor at Harvard since 1987, who himself received a Fields Medal in 1982, holds today the nation’s highest science award, the National Medal of Science, awarded in 1997 for his "profound contributions to mathematics that have had a great impact on fields as diverse as topology, algebraic geometry, general relativity, and string theory. His work insightfully combines two different mathematical approaches and has resulted in the solution of several longstanding and important problems in mathematics."

The allegations made in the letter will be discussed in detail in a webcast open to all interested parties scheduled for Noon EDT, Wednesday, September 20, 2006. Log in information will be posted on The letter sent to The New Yorker is available at his website.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly the link to the letter on Yao's site doesn't work... Somehow he drives less and less sympathy...

Steve Hsu said...

The link works for me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it seems like a big smoke screen to cover up his guilt. I hear the New Yorker lawyers pounded his legal arguments and hence Yau took no legal action and received no apology. This makes me wonder how appropriate the title "Yau strikes back" actually is....

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