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Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics Paperback – May 25, 2004
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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
Unfortunately this book is far harder to read on a Kindle than a physical copy would be. The author in explaining the mathematical concepts makes frequent use of, equations, figures and tables, often referring back to an element on a previous page. This requires one to constantly navigate back on the Kindle, which is slow due the nature of the E-ink display. Admittedly this navigation is aided by hyperlinks in the text, which allow one to view a referenced element by clicking on its underlined reference in the text. However, this still requires one to navigate the cursor to the position of the reference in the text and click on it, which can be slow. A quick way to get back to the page you were on before clicking on a hyperlink is to press the "Back" button on your Kindle.
The most bothersome aspect of the Kindle edition is that many tables in the book do not display fully on the Kindle in portrait mode (I'm using the Kindle 3rd generation, 6-inch display). In particular, the last columns of a table are often cut off. This can be remedied to an extent by switching the Kindle to landscape mode, however, I still encountered one or two tables in the book where the last column(s) were cut off in landscape mode, with seemingly no way to scroll in order to reveal their content. Another issue is that of certain exponents in the text, such as "pi" in e^pi, appearing alongside their base instead of superscripted, this makes it appear as a multiplication operation instead of exponentation, I suspect that this is due to the fact that the "pi" in this case is an image instead of text. Instances where images are used to represent symbols in the text, are often noticeable, as these symbols appear blurry in comparison to the surrounding text, also they often appear incorrectly scaled. Although this is noticeable, it is not a major issue in comparison to the two aforementioned issues.
My recommendation would be to buy this book in a physical format, as it is undoubtly an excellent book. Navigation and display issues in the Kindle edition make the reading experience unpleasant and the concepts more difficult to understand, due to the fact that one is deterred from going back to a previous equation or figure and not all the tables are fully visible, as well as the issue of exponentation appearing as multiplication.
Such an innocuous little statement: such deep consequences. I must admit that I do wish that I understood some of the deeper mathematics involved; it would have been great if the author included "For Further Reading see X" sections in the book so that I could go and get more information or some of the deeper mathematical topics. At any rate I would recommend a passing knowledge of Complex Numbers and first year University courses before reading this book; while not strictly necessary, it really does add to the content if you can bring a higher level of understanding to the topic at hand.
I want to thank the author for writing this excellent tome. You have increased the understanding of this one person; I just wish that more people could share in the beauty of the thoughts involved here.
Wir müssen wissen. Wir werden wissen.
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