September 11, 2006

throw a monkey wrench

Posted in Idioms at 10:13 am by Feng

throw a monkey wrench — Sabotage or frustrate a project or plans [answers]

The Poincare Conjecture — the gem of the mathematicians’ crown — has finally been proven after a century of effort. Perelman, a Russian mathematician, is widely recognized for his main contribution in solving this problem. Fairly speaking, the final result bears the efforts of several people, with Perelman’s work based on an earlier breakthrough by Hamilton and later perfected by two Chinese mathematicians, Cao and Zhu.

However, recently, a professor at Peking University openly undermines Cao-Zhu’s work in his blog (Chinese). He accuses the two of “throwing a monkey wrench” and gleaning the credits in proving this conjecture. I feel sad as a professor at one of the most prominent universities in China criticises his peers in this way, not based on scientific facts but citations of several newspapers (he may forget that journalists are often terribly wrong in reporting science news). I have never seen such a thing happened abroad; it will be a long way for Chinese academia to move on in the right direction.

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