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China's PKU professor wins American mathematics award

2015-01-15 11:15 CNTV Web Editor: Li Yan

Mathematicians spend years racking their brains to finding solutions to some of the world's most complex problems. Dr. Chuanming Zong has spent over two decades thinking about how to fill spaces most efficiently. Last weekend, he was recognized by the American Mathematical Society at an awards ceremony held in San Antonio, Texas. This makes Zong the first mathematician to receive the award while working in China.

It's an ancient math problem, one that even Aristotle couldn't get right 2300 years ago. So Dr. Chauming Zong who studies the most-efficient way to fill space, using objects like tetrahedra, similar to this pyramid, says he can empathize with mathematicians before him.

"He believed if we joined the regular tetrahedra like this, face by face, created one by one, it would go to infinity. Even now a days, we do not know the most efficient way to pack in the whole space," says Dr. Chauming Zong.

More than six thousand mathematicians from all over the world are here at the American Mathematical Society's annual meeting. A big highlight: Awards night, celebrating the best ideas to come from some of the brightest minds.

This weekend, Zong, a professor at Peking University received the 2015 AMS Levi L. Conant award by the American Mathematical Society.

"I am very grateful to the American Mathematical Society for this program. This is the first time that the AMS has awarded a mathematician who did their prize winner work in China. I am very much honored. Thank you," Dr. Chauming Zong says.

Zong along with Jeffrey Lagarias from the University of Michigan were commended for their joint-research which highlights the history and ideas behind an old math problem. AMS president David Vogan says their work explains complicated math in a way that reaches many.

"What Dr. Zong and Dr. Lagarius did was a beautiful explanation of some interesting work. A lot of times, when new math is done, only a small number of people can understand it what happened. This award recognizes that they wrote a paper that many mathematicians could read and learn about their ideas," Vogan says.

"For myself, I do enjoy doing research. During the 23 years, I published a lot of papers on related problems but I always concentrated on this one," says Dr. Chauming Zong.

Zong says coming up with a complete answer could take centuries, but so far he grateful for the opportunity and support.

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