160 – Challenge your assumptions

Posted by  Anecdote International —September 13, 2022
Filed in Anecdotes, Podcast

Great insights come from breaking free of your assumptions. Listen to hear how a high school dropout went on to win the Fields Medal.

Young man studying

This week, Shawn shares a scientific story that will be useful for anyone with a mathematically oriented audience. He found it while looking for stories for our data storytelling program, Story-Powered Data. And you can read about it in more detail in this Quanta Magazine article.

Mark rates this story a 5/10, while Shawn gives it 8 or 9/10. So we’re curious, what rating would you give this story? Tell us in the comments below!

For your story bank

Tags: assumptions, insight, passion, scientific, skills

This story starts at 01:45

June Huh, an American-Korean mathematician, was born in Stanford before he moved to Korea with his family as a toddler. He grew up in Korea and, in his early days, never had a particular interest in mathematics.

Huh was more interested in poetry. At one stage, he dropped out of high school to pursue the art form, but it didn’t work out.

So he went to university, where it took him six years to do his undergraduate degree.

Huh eventually signed up for a course that changed his life. Heisuke Hironaka, a Japanese mathematician, ran the course. Hironaka had won the Fields Medal in 1970.

Hironaka was a quirky, charismatic character, and his course was on algebraic geometry. When it started, there were some 200 students. Within three weeks, there were only five.

Hironaka didn’t teach in the standard way. He included his students in what he was currently working on at the time. It was total exploration.

To Huh, this was exciting. He did his Masters and then, in 2009 in the United States, his PHD with Hironaka.

Within a short period, he solved a conjecture that had been unsolved for 40 years. He then solved another conjecture, called Rota’s conjecture.

This year, in 2022 and at 39 years of age, Huh won the Fields Medal. He says his big breakthrough came when he realised that you don’t need to think about three-dimensional space when doing geometry. It came when he let go of that assumption.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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