Well, here’s yet another discussion of Yau to gobble up. It is a New York Times article by Dennis Overbye on Yau, his life and work*. I’ve no idea why this was written, or what the timing was. I’d like to believe that it was just because it is a good subject -because it is- and that it is worthwhile to do an article about a Mathematician of considerable stature in the field, and about the ins and outs of the world of Mathematics -because it is. But I can’t help but wonder if this would have seen the light of day if there was not the big argument going on about the New Yorker article and Yau’s displeasure with its contents. (Image on the right -click for larger- was taken from this site. It is a slice of a Calabi-Yau manifold. There’s more in the article about Yau’s work on those.)
Well, I don’t care what the reason is. I love to see articles of this type written about this subject matter irrespective of whether there is a juicy potential lawsuit in the public eye. It is good for people outside the field to get a feel for the fact that these are real people out there studying these seemingly esoteric subjects. I also find it interesting myself, since I really am not acquainted with this circle of research and don’t really know the narrative very well. So this is good coverage to have more of, in general. (But then I’m an idealist when it comes to what should be out there in the press coverage of science and related issues.)
I think it is a nicely written article, covering quite a bit about the mathematics and a great deal of interesting information about his role in the world of modern Chinese science, from his nurturing of young scientists to some slices of the politics involved. It is also peppered with lots of generous but nevertheless often contentful quotes from various mathematicians and physicists (you’ll recognize some bits from Hamilton’s letter that we talked about earlier), and so do have a look at it if you get the chance.