AustMS2021 plenary profile – Gang Tian

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with the plenary speakers for the upcoming 65th Annual Meeting of the AustMS.

  1. What is your earliest mathematical memory?

My mother was a mathematician who made outstanding contributions to Hilbert’s 16th problem. When I was between 5 and 6 years old, she gave me some logical problems. One of them was to find bad ball by balance, say you have 9 balls, one of them is bad, but you do not know this ball ball is heavier or lighter, the problem is to find this bad one by using balance three times. The maximum number of balls one can do is 13. I found it was interesting. 

  1. What made you decide to become a mathematician, and when?

I like mathematics since very young. I decided to become a mathematician when I was in college. One reason is its beauty, the other is its simplicity in some sense, for instance, unlike many other disciplines, I can do mathematics in a rather independent way. 

  1. Name a favourite paper by a contemporary mathematician, and why (or more than one, if you can’t decide).

There are a number of papers I enjoyed reading and studying. A particular one is Perelman’s first paper on Ricci flow. It solves some long-standing problems on Ricci flow in an elegant yet simpler way. Moreover, it led to solving the Poincaré conjecture and so on. 

  1. What historical mathematician would you like to be able to talk maths with? What would you ask them?

Maybe skip this question. Of course, being a geometer, I have the highest respect for Riemann. 

  1. What result would you like to see in mathematics in the next 10 years?

I would like to see a fundamental progress on understanding smooth structures of 4-manifolds, such as the smooth Poincaré conjecture for 4-manifolds, through geometric methods.