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August 22nd, 2006:

Poincare update

This, via Chad Orzel, is from last week, but what with all of the CD22 craziness I never got around to posting it. It’s an update on the status of eccentric Russian mathematician Grisha Perelman and his reported proof of the Poincare Conjecture (see here for more). Perelman has gone into seclusion in Russia since his proof was published almost three years ago, but the work he did appears to be standing up to scrutiny. Among other things, there’s a million bucks riding on this:

Also left hanging, for now, is $1 million offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for the first published proof of the conjecture, one of seven outstanding questions for which they offered a ransom back at the beginning of the millennium.


In his absence, others have taken the lead in trying to verify and disseminate his work. Dr. Kleiner of Yale and John Lott of the University of Michigan have assembled a monograph annotating and explicating Dr. Perelman’s proof of the two conjectures.

Dr. Morgan of Columbia and Gang Tian of Princeton have followed Dr. Perelman’s prescription to produce a more detailed 473-page step-by-step proof only of Poincare’s Conjecture. “Perelman did all the work,” Dr. Morgan said. “This is just explaining it.”

Both works were supported by the Clay institute, which has posted them on its Web site, Meanwhile, Huai-Dong Cao of Lehigh University and Xi-Ping Zhu of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, China, have published their own 318-page proof of both conjectures in The Asian Journal of Mathematics (

Although these works were all hammered out in the midst of discussion and argument by experts, in workshops and lectures, they are about to receive even stricter scrutiny and perhaps crossfire. “Caution is appropriate,” said Dr. Kleiner, because the Poincare conjecture is not just famous, but important.

James Carlson, president of the Clay Institute, said the appearance of these papers had started the clock ticking on a two-year waiting period mandated by the rules of the Clay Millennium Prize. After two years, he said, a committee will be appointed to recommend a winner or winners if it decides the proof has stood the test of time.

“There is nothing in the rules to prevent Perelman from receiving all or part of the prize,” Dr. Carlson said, saying that Dr. Perelman and Dr. Hamilton had obviously made the main contributions to the proof.

As the article and a commenter at Good Math, Bad Math note, Perelman actually proved a stronger version of Poincare, which is Thurston’s Conjecture from 1982. That’s really impressive. What’s exciting about this for mathematicians is not just that a longstanding historically significant problem has finally been solved, but that the solution has deep connections to other, seemingly unrelated, areas of math. That’s sure to generate tons more research opportunities, and who knows where all that will lead.

So in the last decade or so, Fermat and Poincare have fallen. There are still some lucrative problems to solve. Personally, I’m rooting for the Riemann Hypothesis to go next, but to each his own.

What about Bob (Smither)?

I’ve noted that among the advantages Shelley Sekula-Gibbs will have over the usual write-in candidacy are higher than normal name recognition and news coverage of her race. Well, those factors apply to the Libertarian candidate, Bob Smither, as well.

[G]iven the exit of Republican Tom DeLay, a division within the local GOP rank-and-file about who to back in a write-in campaign and paired with a few endorsements from nationally recognized GOP members, Smither isn’t the only one who likes his chances against Democrat Nick Lampson.

Last week, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, best known for his participation as one of the prosecutors in the President Clinton impeachment proceedings, offered his endorsement of Smither.

Smither also received a nod from Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who cautioned that should it be determined a write-in campaign would likely not be successful against Lampson, conservative voters should give serious consideration to Smither’s campaign.

“Republicans must focus solely on one issue. Does a write-in campaign have a chance of success?” Patterson said. “If the consensus is it does not, we should seriously consider supporting Bob Smither.”


“Smither’s great advantage is he is on the ballot,” said University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray. “The problem is he has that Libertarian title.”

Murray said when it comes to voting, despite regular outcries from the electorate of wanting more choices, Libertarians are still considered a fringe political movement.

“Even in the best of circumstances in a two-man race, a Libertarian candidate gets 12 percent to 15 percent of the (total) vote,” said Murray. “He will pick up a faction that don’t like Lampson or the Democrats, but outside of having that major party support, I don’t see it happening.

“It should be Lampson’s race to lose.”

Smither countered this is an unusual race. He noted this with his recent announcement that if elected he would caucus with Republicans and would back a Republican speaker of the House, he has started to hear from a lot of diehard GOP backers who indicate they will support him.

Much of that support has come as Smither positions himself as “the only conservative candidate on the ballot.”

I’ve long thought that Smither would be a major threat to the chances of any write-in candidate. The GOP is more unified now (at least publicly) than it has been during the process of finding somebody (anybody! except David Wallace, of course) that it can rally behind, so Smither’s moment in the sun may be over. It’ll be interesting to see how prominent he remains in the news coverage from here on out. Link via Easter Lemming.

More on Wallace’s withdrawal

Fort Bend Now has just about everything I could want to know.

In an afternoon press conference at Sugar Land City Hall, flanked by his wife and daughters, Wallace also said he will not seek re-election as mayor of Sugar Land, but would not say whether he intends to run in the Republican Party primary for Congressional District 22 in 2008.

He can’t come out and say it, of course, because that would be admitting the reality of Representative Lampson. Assuming, that is, that he wouldn’t go ahead and mount a primary challenge to Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in the event of a miracle for her.

Wallace took a swipe at [the process that selected Sekula-Gibbs as the consensus choice] Monday. “In a session closed to the public, an alternative candidate received the endorsement of the Texas Republican Party by winning a straw poll of 83 precinct chairs that were allowed to vote for what was labeled ‘the Republican choice’ for the write-in candidate to replace Tom DeLay,” he said.

Since that night, “I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls” by “people who were not allowed to vote” at the Thursday meeting, and who “strongly encouraged me to continue to run,” Wallace said.

“Without exception, these callers and supporters questioned this made-up process and asked why 83 individuals could determine the ‘Republican choice’ candidate for over 33,000 Republican primary voters across the district,” he said. “Rather than unifying our party, it has only caused further fragmentation.”

Nonetheless, Wallace said, Texas GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser announced that “she had a commitment for $3 million for this race from Washington” as long as there was only one GOP write-in candidate.

“I believe that with those promised resources, and a masterfully crafted campaign, a write-in candidacy is a winnable venture,” Wallace said. “Therefore, in an effort to support the Texas Republican Party, I am going to Austin on Wednesday and ask Secretary of State Roger Williams to withdraw my name as a write-in candidate for CD-22.”

He sure doesn’t sound like someone who really wanted to drop out, does he? Well, maybe if there wasn’t a carrot for him to depart there was a big enough stick. We may never know.

On Monday, Wallace said his campaign has spent the last few weeks meeting with White House representatives, members of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Texas congressional delegation.

“We have a stellar finance committee comprised of some of the biggest fundraisers for President Bush and influential business leaders recognized throughout the district,” Wallace said. “However, this entire team agrees that it is impossible to win this write-in campaign with two Republican candidates in the race.”

He urged voters in the district “to join me in writing in Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on Nov. 7. Together, we will defeat Nick Lampson.”

Yeah, well, good luck with that. I’ve crunched a few numbers on this over at Kuff’s World. You tell me how realistic this is.

Lampson campaign manager Mike Malaise said he believes “we’re getting to the point where people in the district are tiring of that bickering back and forth. And,” he said, “they want to hear somebody talk about the issues.

“That’s why all of the mail we’re sending out, and the TV, is pro-Nick Lampson, and defining his stances on the issues,” Malaise said.

Normally, of course, I’d expect a wad of money to be spent on anti-Lampson attack ads. I just wonder how much of that $3 million kitty will be budgeted to driving up Lampson’s negatives, and how much will be devoted to educating people about the write-in process. As with so many things in this year’s election, there’s just no precedent to guide me in taking a guess.

One last thing, from today’s Chron story:

Sekula-Gibbs does not plan to resign her Houston City Council seat during the congressional race. Her council term runs until the end of 2007.

So either she’s going to be a part-time candidate (one presumes the national GOP might expect more for its $3 million commitment than that), or she’s going to start shirking her duties in City Council. Let’s keep a running total of how many Council meetings she misses while campaigning.

Name that park!

Houston’s new downtown park needs a name. You can help.

“We want Houstonians to feel like it is their park,” said Guy Hagstette, director of the Houston Downtown Park Conservancy, which is overseeing development of the $81 million, 12-acre park near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The contest, which continues through 5 p.m. Sept. 18, is open to all U.S. residents. The winner will receive dinner for two at a new restaurant to open in the park, a framed political cartoon by Houston Chronicle cartoonist Nick Anderson and a collection of Houston Astros merchandise.

Hagstette said the conservancy’s board will review submissions and make a recommendation to Mayor Bill White, who will make the final decision. The name of the park will be unveiled at an Oct. 16 groundbreaking ceremony.

Parts of the park are scheduled to open in fall 2007, with the entire park open by January 2008.

In its logo and promotional materials, the conservancy refers to the park as “downtown’s backyard,” based on the idea that people tend to be more comfortable in their backyards than their front yards, said Nancy Kinder, the conservancy’s board chairwoman.

The conservancy wants the park’s name to convey the same sense of comfort and intimacy – a goal that also was reflected in soliciting public ideas to influence the park’s design, Kinder said.

Houstonist has more on this. You can learn more about the park here, and more aout the contest and its rules here.