- Paul Erdos: He offered money to solve problems that he found interesting. I assume he wanted them solved but he also wanted to encourage a line of research beyond the problem. He had a (well deserved) reputation as a brilliant mathematician, so if he couldn't solve a problem it was hard. People would somtimes not cash the check and frame it. I've heard that with color copiers people now copy it, frame the copy, and cash the check. Did he insist that it appear in a journal or just need to be convinced? I don't know but I would think just need to be convinced.
- Bill Gasarch: He offered $289 dollars for one problem, which, as you know, was recently solved by Steinbach and Posthoff (see here). While Gasarch has nowhere near the reputation of Erdos and his problem was not a deep math problem, this problem caught on as a matter of luck and timing. The blog helped, and Brian Hayes picking up on it helped. Gasarch wanted to get this problem solved, but did not quite know if it would inspire a line of research. It did (according to the solvers) present a problem just on the edge of what is possible to solve of this type. Gasarch used paypal. Hence, alas, Steinbach and Postoff won't be able to frame a check or its copy.
- Scott Aaronson: His 100,000 offer (see here) for ...demonstration, convincing to me, that scalable quantum computing is impossible in the physical world This is different than most prize offers in seveal ways: (1) He gets to decide, not a ``refereed journal''. (SIDE NOTE-here is an idea: a prize that pays out only if the article appears in a non-elsevier journal.) (2) He does not expect to pay out (but he happily will if someone really convinces him). I believe him on this, though 100,000 is a lot of money. He wants to inspire people to think about these questions. The only thing analagous I can think of is prizes for REAL parapsychology- they don't expect to pay out but would be happy to since the world is more interesting if parapsychology is true.
- Millienium prizes: I believe these one million dollar prizes are the most ever offered for solving particular math problems by an order of magnitude (if that is not correct, please leave a polite comment correcting me). Clearly the Clay Instuite wants to encourage research in these areas. Why so much money? I assume to REALLY put these problems on the map. There is no mathematician of the stature of Hilbert nowadays who could state problems of importance in a way people would listen. Smale tried (see here) but those problems never got the status of either Hilbert's problems or the Millenium problems.
- Godel Prize: Best paper in theory published in the last 14 years (used to be 7). I wonder- if someone posted a solution to P vs NP on arXiv and it was correct, would they really not get the Godel prize? I suppose not. A bit awkward in that if your publish in a period of time when many good papers come out you could be out of luck. Why did they extend the window from 7 years to 14 years? Speculation: people are getting worse at getting papers out into journals so they had to extend it. Enablers? Given once a year.
- Turing Award: I am not quite sure if this is for one paper, a body of work around one idea, or a career. It can go to people who never proved a theorem since its open to all computer scientists. The prize money has gone from $2000 to $250,000. Given once a year.
- Fields Medal: Given for a body of work. About $15,000. High Prestige, low dollars. How come the Turing Award was able to increase its money value but the Fields medal was not? I honestly want to know. Given once every 4 years to a set (group? locus?) of people.
- King Faisal prize: I blogged about this here so I'll be brief: High dollars ($400,000), but low prestige. I assume the origin was to try to give glory and prestige to Saudi Arabia who gives out the prize. I don't think it worked. Aside from its origins it also has the problem of being unfocused in that they have awards for Sciene (which is sometimes math) and also for Muslim scholarship, and other areas.
is a list of other prize. Some thoughts
- Some are for solving a particular problem, some are for a body of work in a particular area, some are for a body of work and the area can be anything within mathematics.
- Some are restricted to a subset of people, some are not. Thats a tautology!
- People do not solve problems for the money. Most of the prizes are too small for that and those that are large are for really hard problems.
- There are many of them, more than I thought. I still doubt I'll win one. The closest I ever came was being linked to on the Wikipedia page on the Godel Prize (see this Blog Entry about why that happened.)
Friday, February 17, 2012
People solve math problems for the prize money! NOT!
Why do people or organizations offer Prize Money for mathematics?