A Woman Has Won the Fields Medal, Math's Highest Prize, for the First Time

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 12 2014 4:52 PM

A Woman Has Won the Fields Medal, Math's Highest Prize, for the First Time

The Fields Medal, awarded every four years to between two and four scholars under the age of 40, is math's highest prize. It was first given out in 1936—and news has broken that, this year, Stanford professor Maryam Mirzakhani has become the first woman to win the prize. Per this profile in Quanta Magazine, Mirzakhani was raised and received her undergraduate degree in Iran before attending graduate school at Harvard, where she finished her doctoral thesis in 2004. She's won the Fields for her work with the "dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces" which—and I apologize to mathematicians out there for whatever I do to butcher this description—roughly means that she considers abstract questions related to non-Euclidean entities such as, for example, the surface of a pretzel.

Here's something from the Quanta piece that may or may not make you feel better about your own brain:

Mirzakhani likes to describe herself as slow. Unlike some mathematicians who solve problems with quicksilver brilliance, she gravitates toward deep problems that she can chew on for years. “Months or years later, you see very different aspects” of a problem, she said. There are problems she has been thinking about for more than a decade. “And still there’s not much I can do about them,” she said.
Advertisement

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.