What's the point of the Fields Medal and other maths prizes? Who decides who gets one? And when will we have the first female medallist? Rachel talks to László Lovász, current president of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), Martin Grötschel, the IMU's secretary, and Ragni Piene, the new chair of the Abel Prize committee about all this and more.
Here's the full and uncut version of our interview with Fields Medallist Cédric Villani. We'll publish a slightly more polished version when we get the time, with more explanations, but thought you'd like the chance to listen to the whole thing.
What would you think if the nice café latte in your cup suddenly separated itself out into one half containing just milk and the other containing just coffee? Probably that you, or the world, have just gone crazy. There is, perhaps, a theoretical chance that after stirring the coffee all the swirling atoms in your cup just happen to find themselves in the right place for this to occur, but this chance is astronomically small.
Results in mathematics come in several flavours — theorems are the big important results, conjectures will be important results one day when they are proved, and lemmas are small results that are just stepping stones on the way to the big stuff. Right? Then why has the Fields medal just been awarded to Ngô Bào Châu for his proof of a lemma?