It is often asked whether pure mathematics is discovered or invented. I think the answer is both. Pure mathematics is an exploration of the operating space of the human mind, and because products of the human mind are considered to be inventions, pure mathematics is both invented and discovered. There is no need to postulate a 'Platonic realm' of timeless mathematical forms to accept that pure mathematics is discovered, but pure mathematical discovery is not the discovery of something which exists independently of the human mind. How are we to explain the effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences? Well, the mind supervenes upon the brain, and the brain is the outcome of evolution by natural selection, hence the operating space of the human mind has been shaped by the structure of the natural world. Appropriately enough, the December 2006 issue of the journal Science declared the 'breakthough of the year' to be Grigori Perelman's proof of the Poincare conjecture. www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/314/5807/1848
This famous conjecture asserts that the 3-dimensional sphere is the only simply connected, compact, 3-dimensional manifold-without-boundary. In simple terms, a compact manifold is one which will always be of finite volume, irrespective of which geometry you place upon it. A simply connected manifold, in simple terms, is one which has no holes passing through it (when that manifold is embedded in a Euclidean space of higher dimension). A sphere in any dimension is simply connected, but the 2-dimensional surfaces of doughnuts and pretzels, for example, clearly have holes passing through them, hence they are non-simply connected. As another example, there is a 3-dimensional version of the doughnut, called the 3-torus, which is compact, but non-simply connected.
Perelman appears to have proved the Poincare conjecture, and a more general statement called the Thurston geometrization conjecture, in three papers which were submitted, not to an academic journal, but to the arXiv electronic preprint repository, between November 2002 and July 2003. In the three years since, other mathematicians have been attempting to verify Perelman's claims, and once a consensus was reached, this culminated in Perelman being awarded the Fields Medal this year.
Intriguingly, Perelman has refused to accept the award. Since producing his proof, Perelman has abandoned his academic post, and is reportedly jobless, and living with his mother in St Petersburg. Perelman appears to be disgusted by a lack of ethics in the mathematics community, and, in particular, by claims in 2006 that two Chinese mathematicians, Cao and Zhu, had found the first complete proof. According to the article in Science, two other mathematicians, Kleiner and Lott, who attempted to expound and elaborate Perelman's proof, complained that Cao and Zhu had copied a proof of theirs and claimed it as original, and "the latter pair grudgingly printed an erratum acknowledging Kleiner and Lott's priority. This fall, the American Mathematical Society attempted to organize an all-star panel on the Poincaré and geometrization conjectures at its January 2007 meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to Executive Director John Ewing, the effort fell apart when Lott refused to share the stage with Zhu."
The Poincare conjecture was one of the million-dollar Millennium Prize problems posed by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. Perelman has apparently said that he will not decide whether to accept this prize until it is offered. This, of course, is exactly the right thing for Perelman to say: if he were to say now that he would reject the prize, then it might well not be offered to him, or perhaps offered jointly; by waiting to be offered the prize, he can then reject the offer when it comes.