Saturday, 16 January 2016

Super Humans - Terence Tao

Terence Tao,  (born July 17, 1975, Adelaide, Australia), Australian mathematician awarded a Fields Medal in 2006 “for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory.” Tao received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Flinders University of South Australia and a doctorate from Princeton University (1996), after which he joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tao’s work is characterized by a high degree of originality and a diversity that crosses research boundaries, together with an ability to work in collaboration with other specialists. His main field is the theory of partial differential equations. Those are the principal equations used in mathematical physics. For example, the nonlinear Schrödinger equation models light transmission in fibre optics. Despite the ubiquity of partial differential equations in physics, it is usually difficult to obtain or rigorously prove that such equations have solutions or that the solutions have the required properties. Along with that of several collaborators, Tao’s work on the nonlinear Schrödinger equation established crucial existence theorems. He also did important work on waves that can be applied to the gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In work with the British mathematician Ben Green, Tao showed that the set of prime numbers contains arithmetic progressions of any length. For example, 5, 11, 17, 23, 29 is an arithmetic progression of five prime numbers, where successive numbers differ by 6. Standard arguments had indicated that arithmetic progressions in the set of primes might not be very long, so the discovery that they can be arbitrarily long was a profound discovery about the building blocks of arithmetic. Tao’s other awards include a Salem Prize (2000) and an American Mathematical Society Bocher Memorial Prize (2002).

Tao exhibited extraordinary mathematical abilities from an early age, attending university level mathematics courses at the age of 9. He and Lenhard Ng are the only two children in the history of the Johns Hopkins' Study of Exceptional Talent program to have achieved a score of 700 or greater on the SAT math section while just nine years old. Tao scored a 760. In 1986, 1987, and 1988, Tao was the youngest participant to date in the International Mathematical Olympiad, first competing at the age of ten, winning a bronze, silver, and gold medal respectively. He remains the youngest winner of each of the three medals in the Olympiad's history, winning the gold medal shortly after his thirteenth birthday. At age 14, Tao attended the Research Science Institute. When he was 15 he published his first assistant paper. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees at the age of 16 from Flinders University under Garth Gaudry. In 1992 he won a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake postgraduate study in the United States. From 1992 to 1996, Tao was a graduate student at Princeton University under the direction of Elias Stein, receiving his PhD at the age of 21. He joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996. When he was 24, he was promoted to full professor at UCLA and remains the youngest person ever appointed to that rank by the institution. Tao has two brothers living in Australia, both of whom represented Australia at the International Mathematical Olympiad. Nigel Tao was part of the team at Google Australia that created Google Wave. He now works on the Go programming language. Trevor Tao has a double degree in mathematics and music and is an autistic savant. If you are a mathematician,after you will read his maths blog, Tao will become almost a God in your eyes.

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