Museums get $2b ‘revitalisation’ plan

WASHINGTON (AFP): The Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday a major overhaul of its museums along the south side of the National Mall in Washington that could cost $2 billion before completion by 2036. The focal point of the project is a “revitalization” of the mid-19th century iconic Smithsonian Castle that will include shops, cafes and the restoration of its Great Hall. Other facets of the project include an expansion of the Hirshhorn contemporary art museum, underground and overground links between museums, and major building repairs. The so-called Master Plan, drawn up by the Danish international architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group, is subject to approval by the National Capital Planning Commission, a federal agency.

“The proposed Master Plan will be implemented over a 10-to-20-year period beginning in 2016,” the Smithsonian said in a statement that estimated the total cost at $2 billion.

Funding would come from public and private sources, it said.

Eccentric maths genius Grothendieck dies

PARIS (AFP): Alexander Grothendieck, one of the great eccentric geniuses of 20th century mathematics, has died in France at the age of 86. The maths master reached the very pinnacle of his profession before abandoning the discipline, taking up anti-war activism, retreating into the life of a recluse and refusing to share his research. He died on Thursday in a hospital in Saint-Girons in southwestern France, staff said, without giving further details.  Born in 1928 in Berlin to a Russian anarchist father and a journalist mother, Grothendieck’s parents left him in Germany while they went to fight in the Spanish Civil War.  They were reunited in France, where Grothendieck was to spend most of his life, only for his father - a Jew - to be rounded up by the Nazis and killed in Auschwitz. Grothendieck went on to become a revolutionary mathematician, doing groundbreaking work on algebra and geometry.

 that won him the Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize of the maths world, in 1966.  “He was one of the giants of mathematics who transformed mathematics entirely with his work,” said Cedric Villani, who won the medal in 2010. But Grothendieck refused to accept the Fields award and turned down the job offers that poured in from universities around the world. His life was already headed in a more radical direction, given a boost by the 1968 student protests in Paris.  By the 1970s, he had all but abandoned his research, preferring to focus on environmental politics and anti-war activism. He quit the Institute of Higher Scientific Studies near Paris after discovering it took a small part of its financing from the defence ministry.  He also gave up a post at the College de France to join the University of Montpellier where he often found himself on the frontlines of anti-nuclear protests.  “His greatest and unique violence against the scientific community was that he stopped doing mathematics,” celebrated mathematician Denis Guedj told France’s Sciences et Avenir magazine. Grothendieck did not completely give up on his research, but increasingly refused to share it publicly. In the early 1990s he handed 20,000 pages of notes and letters to a friend who looked after them for several years before passing them on to the University of Montpellier.  Under strict orders from Grothendieck, they have been kept under lock and key in the university’s archives.  In his latter years, there were reports that Grothendieck had descended into religious mania. He had moved to a tiny village in the Pyrenees where he refused all visitors and jealously guarded his privacy. He tried to wipe away any trace of his past life, writing an angry letter to one of his students in 2010 demanding that his entire back catalogue be removed from libraries and refusing to allow republications.  With his passing, a new generation of mathematics students may get the chance to explore the treasures he left behind and fully appreciate the impact he had on the profession. “The ideas of Alexander Grothendieck have penetrated the subconscious of mathematicians,” his most celebrated student, Fields medal winner Pierre Deligne, told Le Monde newspaper.

Turing computing prize jumps to $1m

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP): Prize money for the prestigious Turing Award for brilliance in the computing industry has quadrupled to $1 million after a cash injection from Google, organizers said Thursday. The Association for Computing Machinery said the payout for the honor would place the Turing Award roughly on a par with a Nobel Prize. The jump in the amount of the prize reflects the effect computing innovations have had on people’s lives and is meant to spotlight scientists and engineers behind important advances, the ACM said in a statement. “The Turing Award is now funded at the monetary level of the world’s most prestigious cultural and scientific awards and prizes,” said ACM President Alexander Wolf, a professor in the department of computing at Imperial College London. “With the generous support of Google, we can celebrate the mainstream role of computing in transforming the world and the way we communicate, conduct business, and access entertainment.”

The award was created in 1966 and named for Alan Turing, the British mathematician whose work is widely held to have influenced computers, robotics, cryptology, artificial intelligence and more. A film chronicling Turing’s turbulent life and times - “The Imitation Game” - is due for release later this year and is tipped to figure among contenders at next year’s Oscars. Winners of the Turing Award tend to be scientists or mathematicians whose names are not widely known but whose pioneering accomplishments underpin computing innovations that now touch on many aspects of modern life. “We think it’s important to recognize when people make fundamental contributions in computer science, and we want to help ACM raise awareness of these innovators and the contributions they’ve made to the world,” Said Google vice president of engineering Stuart Feldman. The 2014 Turing Award will be the first raised from $250,000 to a million dollars, and it will be awarded at an event early next year. For a time Google and Intel funded the award, but Intel has since stopped contributing to the prize money.