John Allen Paulos is Professor of Mathematics at Temple University and the author of Innumeracy and, most recently, Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up. (April 2010)

He Conquered the Conjecture

The Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who has turned down both the Fields Medal and the Clay Millennium Prize, which were to be awarded to him for solving the Poincaré Conjecture
On March 23, Grigory Perelman, the fearsomely brilliant and notoriously antisocial Russian mathematician, rejected the one-million-dollar Clay prize for solving the PoincarĂ© Conjecture. He reportedly said through the closed door to his spartan apartment, “I have all I want.” In Perfect Rigor, Masha Gessen gives a convincing picture of Perelman and the strange world of Soviet mathematics in which he came of age.

The Way to Numerical Heaven

Since the days of Pythagoras, numbers have appealed to our sense of the mystical and spooky as well as to our rational and analytic faculties. Whether they are constructs or inventions, facets of an idealized reality, or just rule-governed symbols and squiggles are issues that have resounded all through the …