Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shing-Tung Yau goes after shoddy journalists

On Wednesday noon EDT, there will be webcast on the URL below. Yesterday,

one of the greatest mathematicians of our era, and - as a reader wrote, a towering figure of mathematics - has started the legal process against the immoral journalists who have defamed him and a large portion of the whole field of mathematics - and exact sciences in general - in the August 28th, 2006 issue of the New Yorker. I have just read the

sent to the main authors of that piece of vicious propaganda based on a clear agenda, and even though I don't necessarily think that Prof. Yau is a new Jesus Christ (sorry!), he is clearly a stellar scholar who has dedicated most of his life to mathematics and his and his legal team's complaints seem to be 100% right on the money. Many of these complaints are explicitly proven and it is rather hard to imagine a judge who could deny that Yau's team is right: but crazier things have happened and I am no lawyer.

The amount of deliberate mystifications, neglected facts, distortions, and outright lies in that article seems to be just far too high to be forgiven.

What I will say now are arguably objective facts about the famous mathematician and more or less everyone who knows what's going on would agree, despite all of our differences about non-mathematical issues you can think of: differences in political opinion, nationalities, fields, and temperaments. Originally, I was informed about the New Yorker article by another scientist who is fully supporting Prof. Yau in this dispute, and others who have any opinion are on the same side.

Yau continues to be one of the most active mathematicians, an inspiration for his younger colleagues and students, an important link between mathematics and theoretical physics, and, incidentally, also a co-author of many important ideas behind the proof of Poincaré's conjecture and a frequent visitor of physics seminars.

Even though he is undoubtedly a mathematician, he could also count as a prominent theoretical physicist, as for example the 74 papers with many hundreds of citations from the last 10 years on the high-energy archive show.

You know that your humble correspondent has some kind of strange respect for Perelman's craziness and his isolation from the real world. Perelman's proof is brilliant, mathematicians seem to agree. But still, his overall contributions to mathematics simply can't match Yau's contributions.

Prof. Yau also fights against corruption and other obviously dishonest tendencies in the Chinese universities that often "employ" many leading foreign scholars who nevertheless remain outside China.

The New Yorker article was a brutally dishonest sequence of misleading statements and lies that painted a very different picture and I secretly hope that it was the last public writing about science that its authors and "fact-checkers" will ever be able to write down because the quality of that writing resembled the style and ethical standards of many despicable writers in the blogosphere, including a colleague of Sylvia Nasar at Columbia University, which does not seem good enough for a journal that is read, directly or indirectly, by hundreds of thousands of people.

A collaborator of Shing-Tung Yau just informs me that he or she hopes that by next week, the full power of Yau's brain will again be available to mathematics because they're removing some last discrepancy in an analysis of moduli fields. ;-)

Another link:


  1. Ms. Nasar Hunts Chinese Witches

    China N. Math

    (1) In Ms. Nasar’s article with Mr. Gruber, she labeled both Professors Shing-Tung Yau and Shiing-Shen Chern as “the Chinese mathematician”. In fact, both are U.S. citizens born in China. It is important to note that only mathematicians of Chinese heritage were labeled this way in the article. This labeling is in contrary to the common practice of using the term “Chinese American mathematician” in the mainstream news media in both the U.S. and China. (In Chinese media, Yau and Chern are called “mei ji hua ren”-U.S. citizen of Chinese heritage.) Ms. Nasar went to length to describe the contributions of Yau and Chern to the scientific development in China but neglected to mention that both were awarded this nation’s highest scientific honor, the National Medal of Science. The subliminal message is that both Yau and Chern work only to advance the Chinese interest. Such bigotry is nothing new in this country: Jewish people have been subject to such stereotype for a long time.

    (2) While there were extensive discussions on original ideas in mathematics in this 14-page long article, not a single sentence, as far as I know, associated mathematicians of Chinese heritage to originality. Even the originality of Yau’s Fields Medal work was downplayed. This article promotes the false and harmful stereotypes that mathematicians of Chinese heritage are “technical” but not “original”. (See an open letter to Ms. Nasar for more detail on this point.)

    (3) Seven mathematicians of Chinese heritage were named in the article: Yau, Chern, Gang Tian, Huai-Dong Cao, Xi-Ping Zhu, Kefeng Liu, Bong H. Lian (implicitly, as the coauthor of Liu and Yau). While there was only minimal coverage on Chern, all six others were alleged, one way or another, to involve in plagiary and/or claiming undeserved credits. More importantly, in the article, no other mathematicians but only those of Chinese heritage were alleged to involve of such unethical practices. This is biased, prejudiced, and, in fact, racist. To illustrate this point, substitute all Chinese names by Jewish names, China by Israel, and Chinese by Jewish. This article would then have been easily recognized as anti-Semitic.

    (4) This is not the first time Ms. Nasar spews anti-Chinese venom. In her article Best Business Book 2003: Globalization, she promoted the book World on Fire by Amy Chua. Here is what Ms. Nasar wrote:

    "Chua compares the wealthy Chinese, like her aunt, who dominate the markets of many Asian countries to the successful Jews of Europe in the 1920s. 'In the Philippines, millions of Filipinos work for Chinese; almost no Chinese work for Filipinos. The Chinese dominate industry and society at every level…. When foreign investors do business in the Philippines they deal almost exclusively with Chinese.' When she was 8 years old, she recalls, she stumbled into the servant quarters in her aunt’s villa: 'My family’s houseboys, gardeners, and chauffeurs … were sleeping on mats on a dirt floor. The place smelled of sweat and urine. I was horrified.' "

    This is bigotry, pure and simple. It is now well established that Ms. Nasar distorted other people’s statements to fit her own agenda. (“As it appears in her article, she has purposefully distorted my statement and made it unforgivably misleading.” ---Dan Stroock of MIT.) There were also controversies regarding Ms. Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind about the anti-Semitic statements that she attributed to Mr. John Nash. (See, for example, An Anti-Semitic Mind? by Tom Tugent at Jewish Journal.)

  2. About 50, 25 and 30%

    Apparently, the "50, 25, 30" distribution was translated by Yau's enemiesto provoke the international math community. The first English version I found is on the following web-page with the title criticizing Yau:mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=4767368&tstart=0
    I think it is OK for some people to boast in their own house; and it is ridiculous for a "Notices" article to criticize it. If Yau's supporters were as smart as his enemies, then Ms. Jackson would be very busy. For example, this webpage
    www.pkuer.net/wmkj/study/Mathematics/10/7/8.htmcontains a sentence boasting Tian as "the world-recoganized leader in the area of differential geometry".

    It can be verified using google-translation when clicking the following link.

  3. The following post were deleted by Peter Woit on his blog Not Even Wrong. he claimed any post "attacking" Morgan-Tian is "disgraceful". After reading Peter Woit's things against the String Theory, one can understand why he has keeping the anti-Yau postings but deleting the fact checking posts on the affair. As a failed academic, his sentiment toward the mainstream science and the most sucessful representatives is truly understandable.

    To give him credit, he did tell people that the post existed and he deleted the content. However, after one have read his complains about how his arXiv article was treatd, one would simply ask why he is so doubly-standarded.

    However, the facts and logics are far more important than the ill sentiments. So we pay more attention to the facts.

    On September 23, 2006

    Here are some new facts found in the Chinese world on the Yau case. Many puzzles in this case can be answered from these simple facts.

    1. What was the true stand of Professor Yau on Perelman's work?

    About the truth on the "Manifold Destiny", here is one crucial fact from Professor Huaidong Cao's own words in July 2004.

    On July 17, 2004, Professor Huaidong Cao answered questions for the BBS users at the Zhejiang University (basically the mathematics students there), where Kefeng Liu have been running a mathematics center. The full text (unfortunately only in Chinese) can be found at here:


    I can not find time to translate the whole text into English, but I tried to translate two questions and answers directly related to the comments on the Poincare conjecture and Perelman's work, as well as his support for Perelman's Fields medal in 2006 even in 2004. This certainly sheds light on how much Cao, as well as Professor S. T. Yau, has praised Perelman's work since 2004, and ho they have supported Perelman's case for the 2006 Fields medal since 2004.

    The interesting thing is that Cao said that he wished Hamilton and Perelman to share the Clay Prize, and he thought Perelman was the best candidate for the 2006 Fields medal. This is in sharp contrast to Professor Morgan' statement during the ICM2006 and Professor Gang Tian's statement in his recent lecture in Beijing. If I got it right, Morgan said explicitly during the ICM2006 that Perelman proved Poincare and he should get the Clay prize along.

    Cao was talking to students, and it was in July of 2004. That was way before all the controversies we have had today. Nobody can deny that this was Cao and Yau's real stand on the issue of the proof of the Poincare conjecture.

    My common sense tells me that the real issue in the following controversies is whether Professor Hamilton's contribution should be recognized or not. And what Yau and his students are consistent all the way that Perelman had done great job and Hamilton should be recognized. From Zhu-Cao's paper, it is clear that they did not claim anything beyond Hamilton and Perelman. When Yau told the Chinese press he was proud of the Chinese contributions, it was clear that he emphasized that Hamilton and Perelman's contribution were the most significant. It is absurd to assume that Professor Yau was grabbing credit. This is why the whole story in Nasar's New Yorker article simply has more holes than the Swiss cheese.

    Maybe people can find something to show what is possibly the problem between Morgan and Hamilton, and why Morgan and Tian have been trying to minimize Hamilton's contributions. I can not find motivation for Morgan because I have no idea about him. But Tian's motive is clearly there: if Hamilton and Yau's contribution to the Poincare are minimized or denied, Tian can easily solidify his power in the mathematics community in China forever.

    2. Why Professor Yau had press conference about the publication of the Cao-Zhu paper at Beijing on June 3, 2006.

    Another crucial fact is that on May 30 2006, Professor Weiyue Ding at the Peking University, who was the chief backer of Tian in China, said in an feature article in the GuangMing Daily that

    "(The field of) Geometric analysis are highly regarded in mathematics in the World, and it is a very active research field. Recently, the famous Poincare conjecture was proven by a Russian mathematician. The method he used is just geometric analysis."

    The full text of that feature article (unfortunately in Chinese again) can be found here.


    The Guangming Daily is one of the three daily newspaper directly controlled by the Chinese Central Government. The other two are the People's Daily and the Economy Daily. These newspapers carry the same importance as the news from the official Xinhua News Agency. The feature article was about the innovative research group funded by the NSFC (the Chinese NSF) led by Professor Weiyue Ding. With no surprise, Gang Tian is the major member of that group, and people familiar with the Chinese funding structure know that such group funding carries multimillion Chinese Yen and has been the most prestigious in China. Therefore, Ding's comments in that article should have been directly from Gang Tian. At the link of the Guangming Daily, one can see a photo with three people: Gang Tian, Zhang and Weiyue Ding.

    The publication of this feature article gives direct indication why Professor Yau had his news conference in June 3, after the publication of the Cao-Zhu paper on June 1. Since Tian and
    his backers in China already declared Perelman had proven the Poincare before the international community had reached consensus on it, the logical conclusion is that Professor Yau was there to tell the Chinese people that "wait a minute, the complete form of the proof is just published, and people other than Perelman also contributed to the Poincare."

    People have been wondering why Professor Yau had the news conference in Beijing instead of at Cambridge. The answer is actually in the May 30, 2006 GuangMing daily article.

    This is also gives clear answer to why Professor Yau's enemies immediately grabbed this opportunity to spread the misrepresented Chinese reports to the international world, and try to destroy his reputation.

    Now it is clear who is responsible for dragging things mathematical into the public arena. If Professor Yau does not try to defend himself publicly from such public attacks in china and in the states, his enemies would really prevail.

    From these facts one can only conclude that: Some mathematicians are really bad, and they are Professor Yau's enemies.

    3. People can make their own judgment on the whole thing from the facts collected. I hope these facts listed here can really help.

    People inside or outside the mathematics community should really ask themselves the following question:

    Given Perelman is the genius,
    should Hamilton be discredited by Morgan-Tian?
    should Yau be denigrated by Nasar and whoever behind her?

    Followings are the translation of the two questions and answers Professor Cao had on July 17, 2004. The words by Perelman are not exact words. They are my translation from the Chinese text.

    Chinese Original text:

    Q :去年或前年的时候,俄国数学家 Perelman 宣布证明了 Poincare 猜测,现在一年多时间过去了,请问这个证明已经审查得怎么样了,您是 Ricci 流方面的国际权威,能否发表一下您个人的看法,这个证明完全正确的可能性有多大,还有请问 Perelman 教授的年纪,以及如果这次 Poincare 猜测完全证明,那么会有哪些人和 Perelman 一起分到 Clay 数学所的 100 万奖金呢?

    Cao :审查还在进行中,希望尽早能得到完全证实。从目前审查的过程看,正确的可能性相当大,但是不到最后审查完毕我们还无法下定论。 Perelman 教授 37 岁不到,所以下次 Fields 奖年龄是符合的。当然我特别希望 Hamilton 教授和他能一起分享这 100 万奖金。正如 Perelman 自己所说,“ Hamilton 教授引入了 Ricci 流,发展了许多惊人的理论,改进了许多 Ricci 流中的重要定理,我应该算是他的学生。”


    Q :现在的数学好像发展得很庞大,优秀的数学家也特别多,请问您觉得现在国际上特别厉害的年轻数学家有哪些,比较有可能拿到 2006 年的菲尔兹奖的呢?

    Cao : Perelman 当然是 2006 年拿 Fields 奖的最佳人选。

    English translation:

    Q: Sometime in last year or the year before last year, Russian mathematician Perelman declared the proof of the Poincare conjecture. Now more than a year has passed, could you please tell me what is the status of the examination of this proof now? You are one of the international experts on Ricci flow, could you give your personal opinion on what is the possibility for the complete correctness of this proof? And please also tell us the age of professor Perelman, and for the complete proof of the Poincare conjecture, who will be sharing the $1 million Prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute with Perelman?

    Cao: The examination is still under way. We hope it can be confirmed as soon as possible. From the current process of the examination, it is very likely to be correct. But we can not make conclusion before the examination is complete. Professor Perelman is under 37 years old, and so his age is qualified for the coming Fields medal. Of course I wish strongly that Professor Hamilton can share the $1 Million prize with him. Just as Perelman said by himself: "Professor Hamilton introduced the Ricci flow, and developed many surprising theories, improved many important theorems in the Ricci flow, I can be counted as his student."

    Q: Now mathematics has developed into a very broad field, and there are many excellent mathematicians. Could you please tell me which of the most talented young mathematicians in the world today are possible to get the Fields Medal in 2006.

    Cao: Of course Perelman is the best candidate for the 2006 Fields medal.