# Stanford boffin is first woman to bag 'math Nobel Prize'

Iranian academic Maryam Mirzakhani is today the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, known as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics”. Mirzakhani, a professor of maths at Stanford University, landed the top gong for her work on the symmetry of curved surfaces. You can all about her research, right here [PDF]. "This …

#### Really? You're calling it a doughnut?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torus

In an article about maths! Shameful.

#### Your Lie Groups are showing!

Boffins eat tori. Cops eat doughnuts.

Apart from that, nice math doing. Theorems are so far away from the vagaries of MUH OFFICE LIFE and COMPUTER SAYS NO.

#### Re: Really? You're calling it a doughnut?

Especially when you consider how often they deal with multi-holed toruses, which you would not call donuts.

#### Re: Your Lie Groups are showing!

>Boffins eat tori. Cops eat doughnuts.

Geeks eat pizza.

#### Re: Really? You're calling it a doughnut?

We certainly wouldn't call them "donuts" - unknown at this address. On the other hand, a multi-holed doughnut is, at first appraisal, a crumpet.

#### Good job, Mitochondrial Eve!

It's an impressive achievement not only to have every living human descended from you, but then to still be around and doing good work in complex geometry.

I notice we haven't heard much from the first man lately.

#### I'm wondering ....

.... what the difference is between 'dynamical' systems and dynamic systems. Is it one of those subtle distinctions?

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

Dynamical systems = Can be described by Lagrangians

Dynamic systems = Lots of crap happens

Maybe?

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

Is there a branch of mathematics which describes the hyperlink paths that are followed by someone reading mathematical articles on Wikipedia? If not, there ought to be.

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

There is such a branch, but the last few groups to study it each hit links to tvtropes.com and haven't been seen since.

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

Is there a branch of mathematics which describes the hyperlink paths that are followed by someone reading mathematical articles on Wikipedia? If not, there ought to be.

Back at uni there was a game we'd play when bored after hours of 'studying' in the library. Basically, you pick a random topic on Wikipedia and see how many articles you have to go through before reaching Adolf Hitler's. The person with the least number of pages between their random topic and Hitler is the winner.

I've always been tempted to write a program that would work out the optimal paths to Hitler from any given Wikipedia article (possibly using Dijkstra's algorithm or something similar).

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

*Is there a branch of mathematics which describes the hyperlink paths that are followed by someone reading mathematical articles on Wikipedia? If not, there ought to be.*

There is, but unfortunately the problem turns out to be intractable.

#### Re: I'm wondering ....

*the optimal paths to Hitler from any given Wikipedia article (possibly using Dijkstra's algorithm or something similar)*

Dijkstra's would work, but it'd be a good application for an ant algorithm. Now that you mention it, that'd be a nice assignment for a CS undergrad, combining practical stuff like HTTP scraping and HTML parsing with the graph data structure and algorithm work.

#### She wanted to be a writer ?

Well done on advancing human knowledge. It is a gift not given to everyone.

#### She a genius 'cos she's a genius

Why should her gender matter? She obviously got the "gig" because she's the best of the best at what she does. Can't we just appreciate someone achieving something because they worked damn hard for it without bringing their gender or any other non-related matters into it?

#### Re: She a genius 'cos she's a genius

True, it *shouldn't* matter. However, given the relatively small number of female scientists (certainly outside life sciences) that hit the headlines, it is good to have a new role model for aspiring female scientists. I have a feeling that many girls (certainly here in the Netherlands) are turned away from certain fields of science exactly because there are prejudices in society as a whole about what areas are suitable for women. Extra role models can help change those ideas. I do not mean to say more women *must* enter science, but rather that they should not be deterred by old-fashioned ideas about what they should be doing.

#### Re: She's a genius 'cos she's a genius

Hurrah! and largely sensible comments from all sides to boot.

#### Re: Are we sure...

..so when American Cops goto or hang around donut shoppes, they are actually - well the mind does boggle a bit

Winning a Fields is much more difficult than getting a Nobel - they're only awarded every 4 years with a maximum of 4 awarded each time. You have to be under 40, so if you're like Andrew Wiles and crack Fermat's Last Theorem at the age of 41, you're out of luck. And the prize money of C$15,000 (Fields was a Canuck) is a bit pitiful by modern standards.

You have to be under 40? What kinda bullshit arbitrary restriction is that? At least the Nobel restrictions of "no more than 3" and "you have to be alive" have a reason behind them.

Apparently the winners have to be under 40 because Fields wanted the award to encourage the recipients to strive for further achievement (something he presumably thought was less likely amongst those reaching retirement age).

#### I personally think that the two tossbags who have made remarks..........

......... concerning the lady's appearance should hang their heads in shame. If, of course, they are in any way capable of understanding what the word shame means.

#### Re: I personally think that the two tossbags who have made remarks..........

You're right, I'm terribly sorry.

I'D HIT THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is that better???

#### Professor??

When she was a teenager in 95? How can someone get such a title while they're still in their 20's... oh, hang on... crap! - her maths is clearly MUCH better than mine!

(Mine's the one with the missing decade in the pocket)

#### Re: Professor?? Marcus Pinto

1. where is your evidence?

2. have you checked wikipedia?

3. when you have done that do you believe that all the organisations she is associated haven't checked her credentials?

4 when you have checked out 1. update wikipedia as we all need to know the truth

#### Re: Professor??

Professor is a title awarded because based on level of education and occupation. Generally it's someone with a PhD in a teaching position (though the exact definition varies from country to country). Age doesn't even come into it.

#### Re: Professor??

*Not real qualifications. I got my physics gigs at Cambridge through sheer hard work. SHE BOUGHT HERS!*

Err... so she didn't have to do any work? The Fields medal just dropped in her lap?

Honestly, do you not understand the qualifications needed to receive the award?

#### Re: Professor??

I'm sure Marcus was thinking that she comes from the region that pretty much invented mathematics, astronomy and laid the foundations for much of the knowledge of the classical world. Also the numerals we use, the decimal point, algebra and algorithm all originate with the same Persian scholar ( Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī - he didn't invent the digits, but they were introduced through his work ) among many other important developments through history. So there is a massive and deep history and culture of mathematical brilliance there and it makes sense that a woman from Iran would do well in that field.

Yup, almost certain that is what he was getting at.

#### Re: hmm

" without that stint at Harvard she doesn't win that Nobel prize"

So, when she moved to Harvard, she became a genius, right? And, if she stayed in Iran, she'd be dumb and stupid, right?

#### Re: hmm

No I meant she would never have gotten the top level training from her mentor who is one of the best in the world. She could get the same probably pretty much in any developed country in the world but probably not in any on the majority muslim countries (Malaysia maybe). And yes I am aware that region of the world led in math and science at one time but 1300AD was a long time ago. Also notice where she is teaching now (so the next genius Iranian mathematician will also have to leave to achieve her full potential). Making it is hard enough without having to deal with cultural fail.

#### Re: To be fair

I don't care what they look like as long as they finally get me my Jetson's type car (admittedly the study of donuts might not be that much help). They already gave me his boss.

#### Good on her!

Pleased to see a woman (finally) get selected for this prize. Hopefully it will encourage more women and young ladies to get seriously into math and make it theirs.

#### That linked PDF is great

I do love watching writers try to explain complex technical topics.^{1} From the PDF the article links to:

*Riemann surfaces are named after the 19th century mathematician Bernhard Riemann, who was the first to understand the importance of abstract surfaces, as opposed to surfaces arising concretely in some ambient space.*

I'm trying to imagine the writer who would be informed by the former clause, and enlightened by the latter. "Reimann, eh? I've always wondered who first got out of that whole ambient-space trap."

The piece actually does a pretty good job of summarizing how topology is connected to algebraic geometry, hyperbolic geometry, &c, but I really must wonder how many readers will stick through it to find out.

^{1}No, really. I have a degree in professional writing. 's not what I do on the day job, but it's still interesting to watch.