Why you should give the award to me

Open Letter to the Fields Medal Committee

Opening a copy of The Mathematical Intelligencer you may ask yourself uneasily, ‘‘What is this anyway—a mathematical journal, or what?’’ Or you may ask, ‘‘Where am I?’’ Or even ‘‘Who am I?’’ This sense of disorientation is at its most acute when you open to Colin Adams’s column. Relax. Breathe regularly. It’s mathematical, it’s a humor column, and it may even be harmless.

Department of Mathematics
School of Horticulture Central State University of the East January 27, 2018

Fields Medal Committee
Fields Institute
222 College St. Toronto, ON M53 TJ1

This letter is to officially offer my candidacy for the Fields medal. I want you to know that I would be very honored to receive this award.

And before jumping to any conclusions about my self-nomination, rest assured that I am fully aware I am an unusual choice for the medal, given my extremely limited research credentials. But allow me to elaborate on the reasons why you should give me a serious look.

First of all, you need to make sure that medal award winners represent the wide diversity of areas in mathematics. You have certainly covered many. Algebra? Yes. Topology? Yes. Logic? Number Theory? Analysis? Yes. Flower arranging? No. This is a critical and growing subfield of combinatorics, and not once has the Fields medal committee deemed to honor it with an award. It is time to remedy this oversight. I would be proud to represent the practitioners of this burgeoning area of mathematics as a Fields medalist.

Furthermore, as we are already on the subject of research, the Fields medal should not just be about past success. It should also be about potential. It’s about recognizing how a person, having produced very little so far, and what little there is has not appeared in math journals so much as gardening or bridal magazines, must be saving up for a big push sometime soon. It’s embarrassing to give the medal to someone who from then on doesn’t produce. You want to give it to someone who might be producing mathematics for years to come. I just might be that person.

You may also feel that I am unqualified because I am more than forty years old. I am in fact a young fifty-five. And many people mistake me for being under forty, on account of how I take care of myself. And it’s not just what I eat—lots of granola and fresh fruit, especially mango, I love mango—and the exercise I get. I also take care of myself emotionally.

I take time out to meditate once a day, usually on the topic of the little fractures I have been noticing in my house’s foundation. And I have a small dog, Lucy, who provides me with emotional support on a daily basis. When I am depressed, she sits in my lap and licks my face continuously until I smile again, which quite honestly doesn’t take long. That is how you stay young. That and Rogaine. It’s all in how you see yourself.

And of course, your rule about limiting the age of recipients is probably an actionable offense. I am not threatening you here, and don’t want to get negative—I promised myself I wouldn’t do that—but I should point out that rules, especially inappropriate rules, are made to be broken. What better way to say, “We are sorry for our blatant discrimination on the basis of age. Our shameful behavior deserves contempt. But believe us, we will never let that happen again, as demonstrated by our choice of Bob for the medal.’’

As a further consideration, you certainly want to pick someone who looks good in a Fields medal. As the recipient strolls by, you want observers to think, “Wow, that person sure must deserve that medal, because it looks really sharp hanging from their neck.” That reflects well on you, the committee who chose the medalist.

‘‘Why would it look good hanging from my neck?’’ you ask. Well, I have won a few medals in my day, mostly in elementary school, and I learned how to carry myself when I had a medal on display. It’s not as simple as keeping your chin up. It’s a piercing look, and a forthright step. I can’t tell you how to do it, both because it takes years of practice and because I don’t want to give away my secrets, but believe me when I say I have it down.

Now some of you who are more detail oriented may be saying to yourself, hold on a minute. There is no way to hang the Fields medal from someone’s neck. It’s like a huge oversized quarter, with no slit in it through which to thread a ribbon. My point is that this is of course a huge mistake. Why would anyone want to win a medal if nobody can see that you won it? You’re going to keep it in the closet with your tangled fishing line and your weasel traps? I think not. So although it will involve a bit of drilling, it would be my intent to fasten the medal around my neck with a colorful ribbon that would draw attention both to it and to me.

Another advantage to choosing me is that I am not a candidate who is likely to turn the medal down, once offered. That can be quite embarrassing, as you know all too well. But in my case, you needn’t worry. I am telling you right now up front, I want the thing. Bring it on. I will accept!

I realize the competition will be stiff. Since the medal is only given every four years, there are others who may have proved a really big-league theorem or created a whole new field of mathematics. But keep in mind that winning this award may distract them from what they should be doing, which is working on math. All the invitations to speak, the receptions with the scallops wrapped in bacon, the honorary degrees, will interfere with their ability to get math done. The last thing you want to be responsible for is destroying the budding career of a promising young mathematician. No problem there with me.

Some of you may be saying, under your breath when no one else is listening, ‘‘What do you have to offer in return? If I bestow on you this great honor, it’s only fair that you should provide me with some sort of recompense—a ‘good will gift.’”

What I offer is help with your flower-arranging needs—individual consultations and original arrangements using the most up-to-date algorithms to maximize the aesthetic impact. If you do this for me, believe me, your weddings, anniversaries, special occasions, and just everyday flower arrangements will be the envy of your colleagues.

And what are the consequences if you do not choose me? Although the membership of the Fields medal committee is a secret, having made a few promises, and arranged a few flowers, I do know who you are. And although my research production has been limited, I am nonetheless quite well connected in the math community. I have the capacity to make your lives quite miserable. A job offer abruptly withdrawn due to questions of character. Students marching in protest over remarks that you don’t remember making. Flower arrangements at the banquet in your honor that are lopsided and color uncoordinated. I’m not saying I would be the cause of those things, as that would be self-incrimination, but I just wanted to put that out there.

But let’s not end on a negative note. Let’s end by thinking about what the Fields medal represents. It is an award that should stand for all that is good and beautiful about mathematics. It is a beacon, setting a standard to which we can all aspire. Even me.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert Bargusian