Customer Review

February 19, 2006
Where a complex function is analytic it satisfies the Cauchy-Riemann equations, which implies that its real and imaginary part satisfy the Laplace equation, which means that the function corresponds to a steady fluid flow. Restricting ourselves to algebraic functions and their integrals, we can understand the corresponding flows by studying the infinities of these functions, and we can imagine electromagnetic set-ups that would produce such flows. "Now it seems possible, ab initio, to reverse the whole order of this discussion; to study the [flows] in the first place and thence to work out the theory of certain analytical functions" (p. 22). So we study this type of flows on general spheres with handles, and then show that this corresponds precisely to the algebraic functions and their integrals on their Riemann surfaces. In this way, without any of the usual analytic machinery, we reveal the qualitative insights of Riemann's theory. In particular, "among the numerous accidental properties of the functions, we distinguish certain essential ones" (p. 56), namely the infinities, the Riemann surface, and the topological types of the cross-cuts. This concludes the study of Riemann's theory proper, but for the last part of the book "we may bring forward the geometrical side of the subject and consider Riemann's theory as a means of making the theory of conformal representation of one closed surface upon another accessible to analytical treatment" (p. 56).
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