Archive for February 6, 2013

Wolf Prize in Mathematics

February 6, 2013 Leave a comment


In the absence of a mathematics Nobel Prize, the most prestigious award given to mathematicians has generally been considered to be the Fields Medal, awarded to as many as four mathematicians quadrennially at the International Congress of Mathematicians. However, in contrast to Nobel Prizes, the Fields Medal is restricted to mathematicians 40 or younger. As a result, many mathematicians whose career work is of Fields medal caliber do not get such recognition.

To fill this gap, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters established the Abel Prize “for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics” in 2002 and has been awarding it annually to one or two mathematicians since 2003. (I have written about the laureates at Ron’s View since 2009.)

Since 1978, Israel’s Wolf Foundation has been sponsoring their own Nobel-like prize, the Wolf Prize, including one for mathematics. Last month, the 2013 recipients were announced.

This year, the five $100,000 prizes are shared by 8 winners from 4 countries: United States, Germany, Austria and Portugal. Prizes will be awarded in five fields: in the sciences – physics, mathematics, agriculture, and chemistry; and in the arts – in architecture. The prizes will be awarded by President Shimon Peres at a ceremony in May 2013 at the Knesset.


The Wolf Prize is awarded annually by the Wolf Foundation in five areas: four prizes in the sciences and one prize in the arts, in fixed rotation. The prize is awarded to preeminent scientists and artists “for the unique contribution to mankind and friendly relations among peoples … irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex or political views.” To date, 282 recipients from 23 countries have been awarded the Wolf Prize.

The Wolf Prize has gained international prestige, and in the sciences is considered second in importance to the Nobel Prize. In the arts, the Wolf Prize is considered an extremely important award. Over 33 Wolf Prize recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in the fields of science honored by both prizes (medicine, physics, and chemistry).

Two mathematicians share this year’s prize, George Mostow at Yale and Michael Artin at MIT. This is especially exciting for me, since Mike is my friend and long-ago PhD advisor. From the citation:

Michael Artin is one of the main architects of modern algebraic geometry. His fundamental contributions encompass a bewildering number of areas in this field. … Artin’s mathematical accomplishments are astonishing for their depth and their scope. He is one of the great geometers of the 20th century.

Strong praise, but well deserved.

Other recipients this year include Jared Diamond, whose prize is in Agriculture. Yes, the Jared Diamond who writes those bestsellers, such as current bestselling The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Elsewhere in mathematical recognition, Harvard mathematician Barry Mazur was one of twelve recipients last Friday of the 2012 National Medal of Science.

Barack Obama, Barry Mazur

[Charles Dharapak, AP]

Barry, as it turns out, was my undergraduate thesis advisor. I am blessed to have had two such extraordinary mathematicians as my teachers.

Categories: Math

Quilceda Creek

February 6, 2013 Leave a comment


Big day tomorrow. As new “private members” of Quilceda Creek Vintners, we’ll have the opportunit to purchase bottles from their latest release, the 2010 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. We got notification in the mail ten days ago.

When the letter came with the news, I had no memory that I had signed up. I didn’t even remember their existence. Then I went to the website and saw that they’re based in Snohomish—my friend Russ’s stomping grounds. That’s when I realized that the bottle of wine Russ brought us a couple of years ago must have been Quilceda Creek. And we must have liked it, leading me to sign up for a shot at their annual allocation. A query to Russ confirmed this.

According to the website, “Quilceda Creek is dedicated exclusively to the production of world-class Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 1979, Quilceda Creek has had an unbroken string of highly-rated vintages that has led Robert Parker Jr. to name it Washington State’s premier Cabernet Sauvignon producer.” As for the 2010 release:

We are pleased to announce the private release of the 2010 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. The 2010 growing season started with bud break arriving on schedule in early April. Then, a cool, wet spring led to delayed flowering and reduced fruit set, resulting in naturally low yields. The cool summer produced dramatic differences between warmer and cooler sites throughout the state. Our vineyards are located in two of the hottest AVA’s for this very reason. The result is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon. 2010 marks the 32nd vintage of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winemaker Paul Golitzin describes the 2010 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon as having a rich, velvety mouth feel. It is filled with layers of dark chocolate covered black cherry, blackberry and plum fruit with exotic nuances of Tahitian vanilla bean, violet pastilles and Asian spices. Its seamless integration of all its component parts makes it approachable now, but will age effortlessly for 20+ years.

Mind you, this stuff isn’t cheap. Not at $135 a bottle, which would be more than we’ve ever spent for wine. But I trust Russ, who moreover explained that “the real reason to purchase the supreme stuff is getting allocation for their ‘Columbia Valley Red Wine’. It is a blend, almost always strongly cab and could be called cab, made from the barrels that they don’t put into the $135 bottles.” And it costs only $35 per bottle. The $135 bottles are the price of admission for the cheaper ones.

We won’t know how many bottles we’re eligible for until we log in tomorrow. At least we won’t have to pay for shipping. The letter informing us of our allocation suggests that we drive up to Snohomish on the weekend of March 16/17 to pick it up. At that time we “will have the opportunity to taste the current release, meet with family members, and have some wonderful appetizers paired with the wines.”

Is it worth it? I have no idea how to assess worth when it comes to wine. But we may as well give it a try and see what we think. Of course, we’ll have to lay our purchase down for a few years, so we won’t have an answer for a while.

Categories: Wine