A Russian mathematician may have finally cracked one of the most famous problems in mathematics: the Poincaré conjecture, a question about the shapes of three-dimensional spaces. If his work is correct, it will make him eligible for a $1 million prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., which has declared the conjecture one of the seven most important mathematical problems of the new millennium.
More than 100 mathematicians packed a lecture hall at the State University of New York at Stony Brook this week to hear Grigori Perelman of the Steklov Mathematical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, describe his work. Last week, Perelman told an equally attentive audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he has proven the conjecture together with a broader problem called the Thurston geometrization conjecture. This second problem proposes that any three-dimensional space can be chopped in a standard way into pieces, each of which h