Dr.Riemann's Zeros

Dr.Riemann's Zeros

  • Paperback
By (author) Karl Sabbagh

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In 1859 Bernhard Riemann, a shy German mathematician, wrote an eight-page article, suggesting an answer to a problem that had long puzzled mathematicians. For the next 150 years, the world's mathematicians have longed to confirm the Riemann hypothesis. So great is the interest in its solution that in 2001, an American foundation offered a million-dollar prize to the first person to demonstrate that the hypothesis is correct. Karl Sabbagh's book paints vivid portraits of the mathematicians who spend their days and nights on the race to solve the problem.

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  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 23mm | 287g
  • 10 Sep 2003
  • London
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • integrated diagrams, charts
  • 1843541017
  • 9781843541011
  • 550,588

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Popular science fans: readers of Simon Singh's The Code Book and Fermat's Last Theorem; Sylvia Nasser's A Beautiful Mind, the books of Stephen Hawking, Ian Stewart and Martin Rees.

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Review text

Don't be put off either by the title or the subject matter of this book. This lively and interesting work deals with one of the most important and intriguing unsolved problems in mathematics. Like Fermat's last theorem, recently proved by the English mathematician Andrew Wiles, this is a problem that has vexed some of the world's most brilliant mathematicians for generations. The Riemann hypothesis concerns the subject of prime numbers - those numbers like 7, 17 and 19 that cannot be divided by any whole numbers except themselves and 1. Prime numbers appear to fall at random intervals, and for a long time mathematicians were unable to predict a method for working out when a prime number would occur. In 1859, the mathematician Bernard Riemann devised a method for calculating the numbers of primes under a particular whole number - such as 500 or 2 million. It worked - and it always seems to work. But is it true under all circumstances? That is the problem mathematicians have spent over a decade trying to solve. Riemann's hypothesis was that there is a relationship between the distribution of prime numbers and the zeros of the zeta function - hence the title of this book. Don't worry if you don't understand what that last sentence means - the hypothesis itself is incomprehensible to the non-mathematician, involving as it does mind-bending concepts such as imaginary numbers. Although this is bound to mar some of the book's enjoyment , it is not as bad as it sounds. Sabbagh, having outlined the essentials of the hypothesis, concentrates on the human story. He has talked to a number of prominent pure mathematicians interested in the hypothesis, and the views of those mathematicians on the likelihood of finding a proof, the consequences of finding a proof (or of disproving the hypothesis) and who is most likely to find a proof, and when, make up the bulk of the book. What comes through is an extraordinary sense of the joy of doing pure maths; the pleasure mathematicians get from working at and solving a problem is something that most of us can only envy. Sabbagh writes well and despite being a non-mathematician, has got to grips with his subject admirably. The wonderful thing about this book is that, despite its arcane subject matter, it's a page-tuner; even those who know very little about maths will find themselves reading on to find out what happens. And like good anthropology, it's a revelation - a rare insight into the way pure mathematicians tackle their subject. (Kirkus UK)

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