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

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,873 ratings  ·  105 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...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published April 27th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Jafar
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...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...more
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
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...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
Andrea
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
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
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...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...more
Tim
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
Samantha
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
Bazu
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...more
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.
Des
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.
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
Todd
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!
Daniele
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...more
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
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
Jocelyn


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...more
Manuel Domínguez Álvarez
Un libro excepcional.
Repasa de manera fabulosa la evolución de las matemáticas a la luz del rastro dejado por el estudio de los números primos. El hilo de la trama es tan embriagador que en un momento dado te desorienta y en te hace perderte en un alud de personajes que corren desorientados tras los misterios de la función Z de Riemann. Y es posiblemente esta parte la que se hace más espesa por la dificultad del autor de transmitir en lenguaje simple lo que sólo desde el profundo conocimiento de...more
Matteo
Un libro avvincente come un giallo, costruito su una delle più tenaci sfide della matematica moderna, la dimostrazione dell'ipotesi di Riemann, congetturata nel 1859, forse dimostrata da Riemann stesso, ma distrutta da una domestica troppo solerte nel fuoco di un camino, o persa nelle pagine di un quaderno nero smarrito per beghe familiari degli eredi.
Il lettore è accompagnato attraverso la storia della matematica per cogliere il fascino e la sfida dei numeri primi, in un percorso divulgativo e...more
Maurizio Codogno
(vedi http://xmau.com/notiziole/arch/200502... per altri commenti)
Negli ultimi anni vanno di moda i libri che raccontano i grandi problemi che la matematica ha incontrato nel corso degli anni: i racconti usano meno formule possibili - e lo si può capire - e sono anche romanzati, secondo lo stile portato al successo da Eric Temple Bell che non si è peritato di portare alle future generazioni delle biografie di grandi matematici piuttosto esagerate. Con questo libro (Marcus du Sautoy, L'enigma dei...more
Elisa Ferrarese
Un libro coinvolgente ed affascinante su uno degli aspetti più intriganti della matematica, quello della dimostrazione dell’ipotesi di Reimann.
Il mistero dei numeri primi, così potentemente legati all’essenza stessa della realtà, è capace di avvincere chi è già appassionato di matematica, e forse in grado di far innamorare della matematica chi a scuola non l’ha mai amata.
Di certo questo è il più bel libro sulla matematica che abbia mai letto, racconta l’appassionante storia della matematica, fat...more
Tom Hudson
I got a lot out of du Sautoy’s history of mathematics’ greatest unsolved mystery, but I still wish there had been more. A fantastic history of the places and faces of specific mathematical fields of study, it started with some juicy mathematical tidbits explaining the concepts and their importance. But, as the mathematics became more advanced, any attempt to explain the underlying concepts became vaguer and more reliant on unwieldy analogies, almost to the point of blandness.

Calling the Riemann...more
Alex Jones
I think I read this book at the wrong time - if I had read it during GCSEs I'm sure I'd have loved it, during sixth form I'd still have liked it a lot. However, the summer before entering the third year of a maths degree is the wrong time for a pop-maths book. This book details Riemann's famous hypothesis about the prime numbers from before its conception to modern day and it does a good job of telling a historical story. Some details seem like padding and some a little too apocryphal, but it do...more
Pallavi
It is with books like these that I wonder why I never chose to study mathematics further. I would like to believe it was due to the abysmal, 'learn-by-rote and don't explore' method that I was forced to follow in the rat-race to pick a career. It is extremely unfortunate that I ended up quitting the subject with quite some vitriol, but it is even more unfortunate that I have begun to discover, a little too late, the very subject's beauty. Well, better late than never, right?
But hey, if I really...more
Rosa
El libro empieza genial y se mantiene genial durante al menos el 80%. Marcus du Satoy sabe transmitir la pasi��n que se nota que siente por la hip��tesis de Riemann y logra explicar algo tan complicado a un p��blico bastante amplio. Personalmente yo ech�� de menos alg��n contenido un poco m��s t��cnico pero entiendo que en un libro as�� estar��a fuera de lugar. La narraci��n temporal recorriendo parte de la historia de las matem��ticas relativa a la hip��tesis de Riemann y posterior lucha en la...more
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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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