JAPAN PRIZE 2008 List of Prize

  This program explores a century of intellectual struggle, a story that spans heartbreaking defeats and awe-inspiring triumphs and illustrate topological issues as the shape of the universe with a blend of computer graphics and real-world photography.
  What is the shape of our universe? The Poincaré Conjecture, formulated in 1904 by French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré, promised to shed light on that question. Yet it remained unproved for a century, as scores of mathematicians tried and failed to establish a full proof, though many advanced the quest. Some devoted their entire careers to the effort; the frustration of failure drove several of them to the brink of madness. Recently, a reclusive Russian genius named Grigori Perelman offered an innovative proof that has now been confirmed. Yet he has refused the Fields Medal, mathematics’ highest honor. He has also resigned from his research institute and almost completely disappeared society. The brilliant solution has thus yielded a personal conundrum.
  During our judging session, we saw the immense potential of the Internet and interactive multimedia in terms of reaching out to wider audiences across different regions, ages, and cultures.
  However, when a great TV program appears, skillfully tackling a very difficult subject, Advanced Mathematics, you know you have a winner. Huge research and detective work by the program makers has revealed an extraordinary personal story. Through it, and by an excellent blend of computer graphics, analogy and humor, we are taken on a mental trip round the universe and follow the people who helped solve an enigma that has haunted mathematicians for more than a hundred years.
  The program is very well paced and makes clever use of repetition and clarification to keep the audience engaged. It achieves something very rare indeed; gently we are led into the minds of great mathematicians.
  When I submitted the program proposal for this winning program, I got several kinds of “negative” feedback such as “What is Poincare Conjecture really?”, “Is the answer to the Poincare Conjecture so important for our society?”, “Is it really possible to make such a difficult concept into a TV program?” and so on. Therefore, our production team was often nervous and thought of giving up on the production itself. But we made it but it would never have been possible without the great support of the Design, Computer graphics Team. I first gave them a brief framework of the images I wanted to create, and then the CG team created storyboards for many scenes and combined them seamlessly with newly shot footage to visualize this difficult mathematical world fantastically. Moreover, we would like to thank Professor Masaya Negami at Yokohama National University and Professor Sadayoshi Kojima at Tokyo Institute of Technology as they kindly answered our many questions and gave us ideas about how to visualize the Poincare Conjecture. I would like to share the joy of receiving the prize with the many people who supported our production.

Shinya Ide
Chief Producer, NHK