- Hardcover: 446 pages
- Publisher: Joseph Henry Press; 1st US - 1st Printing edition (April 23, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0309085497
- ISBN-13: 979-0309085495
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 180 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics Hardcover – International Edition, April 23, 2003
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Bernhard Riemann was an underdog of sorts, a malnourished son of a parson who grew up to be the author of one of mathematics' greatest problems. In Prime Obsession, John Derbyshire deals brilliantly with both Riemann's life and that problem: proof of the conjecture, "All non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half." Though the statement itself passes as nonsense to anyone but a mathematician, Derbyshire walks readers through the decades of reasoning that led to the Riemann Hypothesis in such a way as to clear it up perfectly. Riemann himself never proved the statement, and it remains unsolved to this day. Prime Obsession offers alternating chapters of step-by-step math and a history of 19th-century European intellectual life, letting readers take a breather between chunks of well-written information. Derbyshire's style is accessible but not dumbed-down, thorough but not heavy-handed. This is among the best popular treatments of an obscure mathematical idea, inviting readers to explore the theory without insisting on page after page of formulae.In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute offered a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who could prove the Riemann Hypothesis, but luminaries like David Hilbert, G.H. Hardy, Alan Turing, André Weil, and Freeman Dyson have all tried before. Will the Riemann Hypothesis ever be proved? "One day we shall know," writes Derbyshire, and he makes the effort seem very worthwhile. --Therese Littleton
Bernhard Riemann would make any list of the greatest mathematicians ever. In 1859, he proposed a formula to count prime numbers that has defied all attempts to prove it true. This new book tackles the Riemann hypothesis. Partly a biography of Riemann, Derbyshire's work presents more technical details about the hypothesis and will probably attract math recreationists. It requires, however, only a college-prep level of knowledge because of its crystalline explanations. Derbyshire treats the hypothesis historically, tracking increments of progress with sketches of well-known people, such as David Hilbert and Alan Turing, who have been stymied by it. Carrying a million-dollar bounty, the hypothesis is the most famous unsolved problem in math today, and interest in it will be both sated and stoked by these able authors. Gilbert Taylor
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Top customer reviews
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If you struggle with algebra, trig. you will quickly bog down. I don't fault the author who really does a man's job of making
all this rarified math intelligible. And it's a great story too. Well written. But it is NOT easy if you lack the math. Truth said.
If you've enjoyed popular documentaries of this subject and want more, buy this book, smarten up, and the author will richly
Having decided to review my (old) Physics knowledge and study The Theory of General Relativity. I chanced across this book whilst browsing Math books on this site, it was of course Riemann's name that caught my eye, since his geometry is (one of) the basis behind Einstein's previously mentioned seminal theory. The reviews made the book look interesting, but I was a bit skeptical as most Math/Science books for layman I found to be well... crap!!! Though I will immediately state an exception for Kip Thorne's excellent Black Holes etc.
This book captivated me from the get go. I liked the structure, some Math (it's mostly simply Elementary Number Theory and some really basic Analysis) alternating with some history, I learned a lot from both. I'd never studied Number Theory before and learned about a lot of mathematicians I'd never or fleetingly heard of. The tone wasn't too condescending and the Math was just about right for his task, at least until the last chapter or so.
Anyway, when I hit the proof of the Euler Equation, I read it and read it again and again and got hooked on Number Theory and started my own Prime Obsession. Now by the end of book I never fully understood what the Riemann Hypothesis truly meant or implied; this may be also due to the fact that by the end of the book I was already starting to study more Math and its Queen... Number Theory, as I'd signed up for a Masters in Maths and wanted to be fully prepared for it not having studied for a quite a few years by then. And by the end of the course I got to study Riemann's original paper. All in all it was an enjoyable few years.
Now to be honest to really understand what Riemann was up to, you do need a wee bit more Math than Derbyshire offers here, and Riemann's paper is a bit of a read as he makes a lot of assumptions on the part of the reader (he of course assumes you're a Mathematician), this makes the paper relatively short, but means you need to be up on your Complex Analysis, Elementary and Analytic Number Theory help to. We used Apostal's excellent Analytic Number Theory and I found Edward's Riemann Zeta Function to be extremely helpful too; it also has a copy of the original paper.
To conclude I highly recommend this book by Derbyshire as a great starting point to Riemann's and Number Theory in general. It was for me!
Good methods can be used badly, but aside from a little awkward phrasing, there was nothing obviously bad here. If someone wanted to understand the elements of maths talked about and how they came about, the book is very respectable.
Ok, defects. Some of the tables are broken because whoever adapted the book wasn't very good with HTML. The text is awkward to read in places for the same reason.
Any factual defects? Just the usual ones, issues of infinities, some domains not being quite orthodox, etc. Nothing that impacts the accuracy of the main subject, merely side notes where the phrasing could confuse. The main topic is what matters, so just smile and nod when it comes to the maths that simply doesn't matter.
If I could rate chunks of book, most would be a 5, with a few scattered 3s throughout. The average is more than 4, but not so high that I'm ok just giving a 5 and having done with it.
However, just as the other book, the paper quality is not so good. I feel that people tend to use good paper for textbook while bad paper for "pop" book. This is not a textbook but I hope the publisher can use better quality paper for this kind of serious pop-science book, just as most mathematics textbook.
Most recent customer reviews
reads like a page-turner, despite the sophistication of the subject matter.
the melding of history and biography adds great background to development