For the second time in history, Ukrainian scientists have received the Fields Medal. This year, the award was given to mathematician Maryna Viazovska, who also became the second woman to receive the award.
A scientist from Ukraine has been living in Switzerland for some time, where she teaches at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL). Today, she received the Fields Medal, the most prestigious mathematical award given every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians. The medal is awarded to mathematicians under the age of 40 who have made a significant contribution to science.
Marina Viazovska received a prize for solving a mathematical problem about packing balls. She proved that the perfect way to pack spheres in 8-dimensional space is the E₈ lattice, and in 24-dimensional space – the Leech lattice.
“It’s a simple geometric question that arose a long time ago, and is actually quite natural: if you have a very large box, big on all sides, tall and wide, and you have an unlimited supply of identical balls, so how many can you put in this box? It becomes important how many balls can fit in a unit of volume,” says the scientist about the task in an interview with nauka.ua.
Packing using the E₈ and Leech lattice in dimensions 8 and 24 was invented earlier by other mathematicians, but a scientist from Ukraine was able to prove that there is no denser way of packing spheres in these spaces.
“Like other mathematicians who received the Fields Medal, Viazovska manages to do things that are completely non-obvious that lots of people tried and failed to do. She does them by uncovering very simple, natural, profound structures, things that nobody expected and that nobody else had been able to find,” says mathematician and co-author of scientist Henry Cohn.
The award was presented to Maryna Viazovska at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki. She also received an award of 15,000 Canadian dollars for her achievements. Scientists from the USA, Switzerland and Great Britain also received the medal this year.