Now that Fermat's famous last theorem has been solved, the greatest unsolved math problem is the Riemann hypothesis, which concerns the distribution of prime numbers. After the announcement of a $1-million prize for its solution in 2000, three popular books on the hypothesis appeared in 2003, of which the best is John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession (because, contrary to conventional publishing wisdom, it gives the mathematics necessary to understanding the problem). Unfortunately, unlike Fermat's last theorem, the Riemann hypothesis is complicated; indeed, it's all but unfathomable to those without a grasp of such difficult concepts as using imaginary numbers as exponents. Dartmouth math professor Rockmore writes elegantly and makes ample use of analogy, but because he avoids equations, including the zeta function that's an essential component of the hypothesis, he can really talk only around the subject. Compared to his predecessors, Rockmore moves quickly through the history and focuses on more recent approaches to tackling the problem. Still, for all the author's earnest efforts to explain such terms as eigenvalues and Hermitian matrices, most lay readers will be left scratching their heads.
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The Riemann hypothesis, posed in 1859 in connection with Riemann's investigation of the distribution of prime numbers among integers, is the most important unsolved problem in mathematics today: it impinges not merely on almost every area of modern mathematics but on fundamental questions in quantum physics as well. Rockmore's book provides an engaging introduction to the problem and its history up to the present day, eschewing equations in favor of narrative and metaphor. While some of the resulting flights of fancy bog down in verbiage, others are clever and helpful. Rockmore explains linear transformations as views of the world's colors through the lenses of sunglasses, and he connects the Riemann hypothesis to the physics of balls and bumpers in an imagined billiard hall, "the Chaotic Cue, tucked away on a small side street in our mythical village of Quantum Chaos." Thumbnail biographies of the dramatis personae provide diversion and breathing room between passages of mathematics. This is a lively account of one of the central problems of modern science. Jared Wunsch
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Chapter 7 of this book refers to a curious incident about Stieltjes. In 1885 he claimed he had proved the Riemann Hypothesis. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jet Lagged
There are quite some titles available on the subject so far. This book gives a very complete overview of all the mathematicians that have been working to solve the Riemann... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Martijn13Maart1970
This book is not only a review of the issues, personalities and history of this great problem, but also an assessment of why it matters. A fascinating read.Published on February 5, 2013 by James Kent Brink
I had high hope when I saw the title and the bio of the author. But I was left bewildered after going through the book. Read morePublished on May 26, 2011 by fantans
I don't know what it is with the latest books trying to popularize certain branches of contemporary and modern science, but it seems to me that poetic and decorated language now... Read morePublished on May 27, 2007 by Gerke M. Preussner
How do you write a book about mathematics and numbers without any? I got lost in the sea of abstract forced analogies and ended up more confused, irritated, and lost than I had... Read morePublished on May 12, 2007 by Sanjeev Naik
I felt very irritated by reading this book. Many analogies and side stories lead to loose the focused main subject. Read morePublished on April 13, 2007 by TS
This wasn't any good as a hardback and reissuing it
in paperback doesn't change matters.
To get an idea of what you are in for, see the reviews
of... Read more
You can see why the Riemann Hypothesis allegedly led to John Nash's label of mental instability. This book is the best math book out there and it's definitely out there. Read morePublished on August 4, 2006 by drew hempel