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# Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics

In 1859, Bernhard Riemann, a little-known thirty-two year old mathematician, made a hypothesis while presenting a paper to the Berlin Academy titled “On the Number of Prime Numbers Less Than a Given Quantity.” Today, after 150 years of careful research and exhaustive study, the Riemann Hyphothesis remains unsolved, with a one-million-dollar prize earmarked for the first pe...more

Paperback, 422 pages

Published
by Plume
(first published January 1st 2003)

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An anecdote from Lambert's biography of Georges Lemaître which may amuse mathematicians. At one stage, young Lemaître was being supervised by the famous number theorist de Vallée-Po...more

*Prime Obsession*deals with mathematical concepts magnitudes of order more complex than those brainiacs could ever wish to comprehend. John Derbyshire describes the Riemann Hypothesis (RH) and the mathematical titans that have tried unsuccessfully to prove the hy...more

*All non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half.*

By the time you finish the book, that enigmatic statement along with the math behind it will make sense,you will have a deep understanding of the significance of TRH (namely how it is connected to the distribution of prime numbers) and you will have a feel for the ric...more

I gave it five stars because despite this, it was a real page turner. The prose is light and clear, and the pace is good. Reminds me of James Gleick's Chaos and Genius, at least i...more

While I'm not sure that I agree with the author's claim that someone who does not understand the RH after reading this book wi...more

The lazy part in me took this up for light reading as an alternative to working out the maths from Wikipedia, and I wasn't totally disappointed if a little bored. I wasn't familiar with the concept of "domain expansion" of a...more

The author's politics are thankfully not on display in Prime Obsession, nor is his trademark crankiness. However, there is a certain sense of stubbornness and...more

This is a really good book. It attempts to explain the Riemann Hypothesis ("RH") to anyone with only "high school" mathematical knowledge, or maybe a little bit more. It also contains a lot of historical material on the mathematicians involved and makes many delightful observations and asides on the way.

The book includes a lot of mathematical reasoning. But the author avoids making it a mathematical text-book by simplifying, cheating, and joking his way along. This is a very refreshing and effec...more

Writing a boo...more

But primes are strange as well - there doesn't appear to be any order to their appearance. The higher you count, the less often you run into them and you'll never stop seeing them. But can we tell when the next one will occur? In other words, is there some sort of p...more

I can't say I kept up with all of the math. The first third was a review, the second third I felt like I should understand because I had it in college but hadn't used since, and the...more

Well done on this book which was outstanding throughout both presentation of math and in its history.

However, people deserve to know that the author was fired from the conservative National Review for white supremacist statements and even writes for VDARE, a white nationalist anti-immigration group.

I scoured the book critically for expressions of his racist position, and I could find...more

Reminded me of matrices and eigenvalues, which we did for maths O level back in the 70s! Need to go back and look more at this.

Perfect complement...more

May 26, 2008
Suhaila
rated it
5 of 5 stars

Recommends it for:
Everyone

Recommended to Suhaila by:
My dad!

Amazing and mind expanding. It's astounding to think that there are people out there working away at this crazy problem, and how much they have accomplished. I was fascinated by the brilliant leaps of logic and understanding across mathematical disciplines and methods. Yet the Reimann Hypothesis is still unproved.

Derbyshire's writing has piqued my curiosity and interest in both the different fields of mathematics and the principal historical figures of the Reimann Hypothesis. His writing is so...more

Derbyshire's writing has piqued my curiosity and interest in both the different fields of mathematics and the principal historical figures of the Reimann Hypothesis. His writing is so...more

Mixed in with a straight history of the Riemann Hypothesis and its soldiers is an accidental anthropological analysis of mathematics...more

It presents far more of the actual math than, say, something like Fermat's Enigma.

It never really goes beyond high school level, but it can get easy to lose your understanding at times. (Although I might be a victim of my own poor attention span, more than anything else.)

It is not for everyone, but of you are seriously fascinated with math and have some knowledge in the...more

Fabulous writing. Awesome footnotes. Thanks for jogging my memory about some long-unused keys on my scientific calculator, and for the lovely mathematicians' biographies. But at the end of the day, yeah, it was kind of...more

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1 trivia question

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“I tell you, with complex numbers you can do anything.”
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“Mathematicians call it “the arithmetic of congruences.” You can think of it as clock arithmetic. Temporarily replace the 12 on a clock face with 0. The 12 hours of the clock now read 0, 1, 2, 3, … up to 11. If the time is eight o’clock, and you add 9 hours, what do you get? Well, you get five o’clock. So in this arithmetic, 8 + 9 = 5; or, as mathematicians say, 8 + 9 ≡ 5 (mod 12), pronounced “eight plus nine is congruent to five, modulo twelve.”
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