Stieltjes Prize for Jop Briët

Today, Jop Briët, researcher at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, was awarded the Stieltjesprijs 2011, the prize for the best thesis in mathematics.

Today, Jop Briët, researcher at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, was awarded the Stieltjesprijs 2011, the prize for the best thesis in mathematics. In 2011 Briët defended his thesis `Grothendieck Inequalities, nonlocal games and optimization’ at the University of Amsterdam under the supervision of Prof. H. M. Buhrman. In his thesis Briët introduced new variants of the famous inequality of Grothendieck and applied them to computer science, physics and mathematics. The prize consists of 2,500 euros.

One of the areas in which Briët applied the Grothendieck inequality is optimization.  A known example of a difficult optimization problem is a railway timetable. Since determining the optimal choice is time consuming, optimization often focuses on finding the best possible solution within a reasonable time frame. Briët conducted a qualitative analysis of algorithms that try to solve an optimization problem in the shortest time possible.

Based on the mathematical tools of Grotendieck, Briët also analyzed the reliability of physical
experiments which show that nature allows for entanglement. Entanglement, a unique aspect of quantum mechanics, implies that distant particles can exhibit correlations without transfer of information.The existence of entanglement means that quantum mechanics is a better  mathematical model of reality than classical mechanics.

Unintentionally, Briët also solved a 35-year-old problem in pure mathematics (Banach algebra). In 2008, mathematicians already translated this issue to a problem about entanglement. The modified tool of Grothendieck was the last piece of the puzzle needed to solve this problem.

Since 1996 the Stieltjes Prize is  annually awarded for the best thesis in mathematics that is defended at a Dutch university. Briët’s thesis was selected out of sixty entries. The award is made available by the Dutch foundation ‘Stichting Compositio Mathematica’.