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The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  2,260 ratings  ·  118 reviews
In 1859, German mathematician Bernhard Riemann presented a paper to the Berlin Academy that would forever change the history of mathematics. The subject was the mystery of prime numbers. At the heart of the presentation was an idea that Riemann had not yet proved but one that baffles mathematicians to this day.

Solving the Riemann Hypothesis could change the way we do busin
Paperback, 335 pages
Published April 27th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Well, aren’t prime numbers really fascinating? If you’re rolling your eyes, then you should read this book.

The main subject of the book is the Riemann Hypothesis. You have to be patient if you don’t know what it is. It takes about 100 pages of the book to get to the point where it (sort of) tells you what it is. There’s a particular complex function called zeta function. The zeros of this function can be used to correct a formula by Gauss that approximates the number of prime numbers less than
Noel Bush
Sep 24, 2009 Noel Bush rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
I'm most grateful to this book for finally enabling me to understand the Riemann Hypothesis. My love for math was derailed in high school when I got in over my head, and ever since it's always such a pleasure for me to find something that can help me taste some of that world that I missed out on. This book does a wonderful job of taking you through the development of some very cool math by telling the stories of the people who made important discoveries. You get a very clear sense of how mathema ...more
Bill Ward
This book was at its heart a biography of the Reimann Hypothesis, and of the mathematicians who worked on trying to prove or disprove it over the years. I really liked the way that it showed the relationships among the people involved, and how the centers of number theory research shifted from Paris to Göttingen to Princeton, and how this was caused in large part by the geopolitics of the area (Napoleon and Hitler in particular).

But this book has a serious flaw. The math was really dumbed down
Hassan Kadhem
The Music of The Primes, a wonderful and amazing journey to the world of prime numbers and patterns

it was at the summer of 2009 when i was first introduced to the beauty and strength of the primes when the instructor asked us to implement some factorization problems in my second programming course, it was at that class where he shed a little light on the true beauty of primes talking about RSA encryption which is discussed in a late chapter of the book. almost one year later, i had the chance t
May 13, 2009 Andrea rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alysia, Gwen, Robbin
Recommended to Andrea by: Sally
You are not going to believe that a book on a math subject would be hard to put down but this book is brilliantly written. I started reading this with doubts I would actually finish and I keep getting hooked into reading the next chapter and the next chapter. The author writes the whole book like this is THE GREATEST treasure hunt ever. He starts out by talking about the million dollar prize for the person who can prove Riemann's Hypothesis. Then he tells the story of how people discovered littl ...more
How do I love Marcus du Sautoy? Let me count the ways.

Nicked this off my dad during my A levels, ended up buying my own copy and taking it to university because I wanted to lend it out to people without him getting upset. It's accessible, broad and fascinating - perfect for the enthusiastic amateur and armchair mathematician.

For the record, you may write "enthusiastic amateur" on my tombstone.
Nina Tandon
May 16, 2009 Nina Tandon is currently reading it
I really like the quote from Weber "When the globe is covered with a set of railroads and telegraph wires, this net will render services comparable to those of the nervous system in the human body, partly as a means of transport, partly as a means for the propagation of ideas and sensations with the speed of lightning." For me, having grown up with the internet and extant high-speed transportation systems, I was attracted to physiology because of the analogy I saw between the "outside" and "insi ...more
Aaron Humphrey
I was fascinated with prime numbers myself for years. Many of my classmates could (if they had been paying attention) attest to the fact that I spent much of my class time, in high school math and many university courses, factorizing random 7- and 8-digit numbers, often when I really should have been paying attention and taking notes. I had the primes up to at least 200 memorized. I often wondered if there were easier ways to factorize, and I'm still not convinced there are, though apparently th ...more
Shadab Zafar
Mathematicians feel like characters and the course of history feels like a fictional story beautifully woven by du Sautoy.

This is the story of an outcast, a loner, who in his ten paged paper made a little hunch. It, also is, a story of an indian clerk who believed that a goddess was responsible for his contributions to mathematics. The story of a city which was home to some of the greatest mathematicians. A story of how the atoms of arithmetic lie at the heart of modern e-business.

But most of al
Wow, I am not mathematically inclined at all but this was a thrill to read. what a talent to bring complex mathematics and the prime numbers to more people. Thanks to Du Sautoy. This book enriched my life.
Jishnu Bhattacharya
The Music of the Primes is an amazing introduction to the Riemann hypothesis. I'm a bit biased here, since I like math, and have some idea about the subject matter. If you know a bit about prime counting, logarithms, modular arithmetic and quantum mechanics, you can't put this down. Even the people who don't like math might find it interesting, it is so well written. The language is lucid, and even complicated mathematical concepts are presented in a way that is easy to understand. In fact, he n ...more
Huw Evans
Prime numbers are unique; they can only be divided by themselves and the number one. They crop up irregularly as you count upwards and are seemingly wholly unpredictable in their occurrence. There is an infinite number of them and they appear to be as important in life, the universe and everything as the numbers in the Fibonacci series.

There seems to be an inherent need in mathematics to rationalise and predict with a level of accuracy that goes beyond the normal. Only if the sun can be proved t
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is reasonably well written, and provides fascinating insights both into the history of mathematics and into the strange world of modern number theory. As a result, it helped change my view of what maths is, and realise that it should be a fascinating journey of discovery, a million miles away from the dry routine of calculation and prescribed problem-solving I remember from school. On the other hand, I have to admit that most of the math ...more
Rodrigo d'Orey
This is a really well written and fascinating book on the history of the Riemann hypothesis and the people involved trying to solve it. Hardly any maths involved so a easy and fast read. Not much more to say as there are already many great reviews already written about it but in particular I liked the clear explanation of how modulus arithmetic and cryptography (RSA system) works. If you desire to learn more about the Riemann hypothesis or are thinking about reading "Prime Obsession, Bernhard Ri ...more
This book, read after Popco and 13 Things That Don't Make Sense, has made me really really want to study number theory. Maybe even give up on that whole history and social justice thing I've been doing and just be a mathematician.....

Who knew prime numbers (and mathematicians!) were so fascinating?
Patrick Hewlett
The quest for finding a pattern among prime numbers is as old as number theory itself and is certainly well-represented in book form (see Prime Obsession). But The Music of the Primes presents a lucid, unbiased look at the evolution of prime number theory, not just Reimann's most famous take on the problem. It gets a little heavy at the end (as most great math books do) with the evolution of parallel processing and the subsequent exponential growth of digits, but it's still one of my top-five es ...more
Numbers have some unusual properties, and mathematicians have a long history of being curious about those properties. The Music of the Primes is a non-technical book which traces the study of prime numbers and the major characters who have made contributions to our understanding of them.

The primes aren't the only theme here. Along the way we find the shifting tides in mathematics from foundational issues to the practical usefulness of what were once considered purely academic pursuits. Some of
Mario Incandenza
I numeri primi sono numeri particolari che non possono essere divisi per nessun numero diverso da loro e uno. Oggi hanno una notevole importanza per tutte le questioni legate alla crittografia a chiave asimmetrica, ma da sempre, al di la della loro utilit, hanno affascinato i matematici. <br />Dei "primi" si sa (in matematica "si sa" equivale a "si dimostrato") che sono infiniti, si nota che tendono a essere tanto pi radi quanto pi i numeri (naturali) crescono.</p><p>Ma dato u ...more
Davvero fantastico, incredibile! Uno dei miei libri preferiti, DuSautoy, oltre a essere un matematico è anche un grande scrittore. Credo che con la pubblicazione di questo romanzo la ricerca di una soluzione all'ipotesi di Riemann sia cresciuta esponenzialmente. Ah, che bello sarebbe vincere una medaglia Fields!
Robin Hughes
The greatest maths book I have read yet, it makes number theory immensely simple. Theoretically an exposition of the Riemann Hypothesis, widely seen as the most important unsolved problem in maths, it takes in all the most groundbreaking maths of the last 500 years.
A really good pop sci book. Du Sautoy covers the history of prime numbers and the Riemann hypothesis in enough detail that you come away feeling like you have at least an understanding of the broad strokes of the picture - why this is important, why it's interesting, why it's relevant. That's harder to achieve than most people give credit for, given how abstract and esoteric the actual maths is.

Sure, the maths itself isn't delved into in much detail, but there are endless resources out there fo
An amazing romp through the history of the search for proof of the Riemann Hypothesis. Every page has an idea or a personality that makes you want to hunt down and read *another* book.
Marco Parravano
I read the whole book sitting on the shore during summer vacation. My girlfriend would complain about me reading nerd stuff like I never did. God, I wish she could know what I know now!
Paul Dormer
It was interesting reading this so soon after reading Simon Singh's book on Fermat's Last Theorem. Many of the same characters turn up, but whereas the Fermat problem was easy to state, the Riemann Hypothesis is more difficult to explain. Still, I think I understand what it is about, now.

However, this book fell a bit short for me. Singh had appendices that explained a bit further some of the maths that would halt the narrative if put into the text. Du Sautoy just leaves things hanging in the air
I read this book for #17 of #26bookswithbringingupburns - 'a book that will make you smarter'

Essentially it was a lesson on the history of mathematics, specifically number theory and the search for theories and proofs relating to the prime numbers. It wasn't terribly interesting until we got to investigating practical applications, which was rather near the end of the book. It wasn't a particularly difficult read in terms of the information presented, but it wasn't exactly gripping either. I fee
It took me a while to read this but it was very enjoyable for someone who has a bit of a thing about maths at the moment. It tells of the human fascination with prime numbers (really?); the building blocks of mathematics and especially with the search to find a pattern to predict their frequency. The Riemann Hypothesis is the best description so far; proposed in 1859, there is a million pounds awaiting the person who finally proves it.

The book deals with all the major characters who have contrib
Odiavo la matematica, lo ammetto. Nell'età scolare era la mia bestia nera, non tanto perché non riuscissi ad incassare la mia sufficienza macilenta, quanto piuttosto per la sensazione che oltre quella massa di numeri assurdi ci fosse un senso. Qualcosa che mi sfuggiva come sabbia tra le dita.
Con il passare degli anni, ed un approccio meno rigoroso alla materia, ho cominciato a percepirne l'armonia e ad imparare la bellezza di un ordine così misterioso.
Ebbene sì, la più esatta delle scienze esa
Saggio davvero interessante sull'ipotesi di Riemann, uno dei problemi del millennio. Partendo da grandi matematici del XVIII secolo come Gauss, passando, appunto, per Riemann fino ad arrivare a Godel e Turing, viene analizzata il ruolo giocato dall'ipotesi di Riemann e più in generale aspetti di teoria dei numeri.

Il tutto è naratto in maniera interessante e a volte, grazie a personalità tanto geniali quanto stravaganti (come Hardy), anche molto divertente. Per nulla pesante e praticamente non se
Nathan Glenn
This is a pretty neat book giving a social and mathematical history of the development of the Riemann Hypothesis (RH), a conjecture explaining the distribution of prime numbers posited in 1859. Lots and lots of mathematicians, and some physicists, are discussed, including their thoughts on the beauty of mathematics and often a lengthy biography of how they came to be mathematicians and be involved in the RH. The author explains all math at a very abstract, analogical level, comparing it to lands ...more

I've been interested in numbers ever since I can remember. Math was always my favorite subject in school, and I majored in it in college. I don't do a lot of math anymore, with the exception of the odd algebra problem on my page a day calendar, but I enjoy reading about the history of math.

A couple of years ago my son gave me a book on the Reimann Hypothesis, Prime Obsession Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. It was a fascinating book, but had a lot of math that
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Marcus Peter Francis du Sautoy, OBE is the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.
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