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Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  2,820 ratings  ·  359 reviews
A New York Times Science Bestseller

What if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren’t even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.

In Love and Math, renowned mathem
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Basic Books
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Idealised Objects

Love makes us say and do silly things. But without love worse thing happen. So I can’t fault Frenkel for his loving devotion to his subject. Nevertheless what he says is often silly. And he needn’t say it in order to get his point across: math (or ‘maths’ for those in the Mother Country) is beautiful.

Here’s the love note from his introduction: “Math is a way to describe reality and figure out how the world works, a universal language that has become the gold standard of truth
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'd give this book a better rating if it advertised itself as the biography of a Jewish mathematician who faced discrimination in the Soviet Union, or as a pop-math book about the applications of pure math in theoretical physics. But no, Frenkel claims that he intends to dazzle you with so much mathematical beauty that it will make you - you, as in, you the layman reader - fall in love with math. I'm afraid this book will do no such thing.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mathematics, memoirs
I wanted so much to love this book, but it was difficult. About half of the book is about Frenkel's life; and it was fascinating. The other half, interleaved with his memoirs, are descriptions of Frenkel's mathematical work and discoveries. I had a great deal of trouble following the descriptions of the math. I am superficially familiar with many of the concepts, but it just gets more and more complex. Toward the end, especially, I became quite confused.

Frenkel grew up in a small town in the Sov
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book and found it riveting. My parents gave it to me last Christmas, and I avoided reading it because the cover and description didn't give many clues as to the content. (Sadly, I DO judge books by their covers.) I'd also never heard of Frenkel (yikes, that's embarrassing). Once I cracked it open, I was hooked. Equal parts autobiography and "mathematical-research-y," it was a fascinating true story of discrimination against Jews in Russia, Frenkel's journey to becoming a world-renow ...more
Nov 26, 2013 added it
If you're a math geek, Love and Math will be up your alley. If you're a math geek who is Jewish and whose parents (or you) come from Eastern Europe, it's probably a must read. Love and Math is a hybrid book, kind of a mix between Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and George Polya's How To Solve It. The Feynman type bits - Frenkel dealing with anti-Semitism in Russia and making an erotic math film - are a mix of amusement and pathos. But mostly this book is an autobiography of math problems exami ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
The general tone of negative and middling reviews for this book suggest why it is (especially in countries like the United States) that while popular science seems to be embraced more and more by the masses, actual scientific and mathematical literary seems to be on the decline or finds itself at least consistently below average.

The autobiographical part of the book weaves through the mathematics well enough and is very interesting in its own right, from its reflections on Russian mathematics to
Athan Tolis
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math-science
This is, comfortably, the best popular math book I’ve ever had the fortune to lay my eyes on.

I have a couple degrees in the subject. One in applied math, that I studied in college, and one in pure math that I got twelve years later. Indeed, I coincided with the author at Harvard, and his description of the Math department in the Science Center, the ping pong table and that hidden gem of a library brought back memories of my first semester in college, which was largely spent poring over impossibl
Jennifer Stephens
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, non-fiction
update : i finally gave up on this book. i just cannot make myself read any more of it.

original review in progress: So I am slogging my way through this new memoir aptly named 'Love and Math' from a Russian Jewish mathematician. I haven't gotten to any bits about love between people yet (I was hoping for some romance) - it's mostly about his love OF math with bits of details on the deep antisemitism that used to be present in Russia. Starting to realize math geeks are a bit like dirty hippies wh
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
An overly ambitious attempt by a brilliant mathematician to inculcate his love for the subject into a lay audience. The topic is modern mathematics, beyond the usual math we have mostly been exposed to in school. When he says "algebra" he means abstract algebra. Similarly for "group," "field," "category" and on up to "strings" and "sheaves." He briefly describes these objects, but sentences with ten unfamiliar terms in them are just too much for me. His topic is The Langlands Project -- also new ...more
John Karabaic
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Edward Frenkel needs both a better agent and a better editor.

A better agent would have had a heart-to-heart talk with him about his objectives in writing this book. Frenkel claims he wants to inspire a new generation of mathematicians, particularly by bridging the "two cultures" between the arts and science by using the powers of love and math. That agent might have advised him that, since his work sorely needs the power of visualization, he hook up with a comic book artist--someone who knows th
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book, but would be hard pressed to recommend it since he does explain all the details that goes into the relevant math and the listener can get lost within the weeds of the math. I did not know this branch of mathematics and was able to follow the details, but sometimes it did get overwhelming.

Math is beautiful. Behind our current different branches of abstract math there exist an ultimate theory that ties each branch together. This book explains all of this by delving into the mat
Daniel R.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: mos
This book would have been better if it was structured as two short novels, one about his life and the other about the mathematics he has worked on, instead of one interwoven book. The author provides suggestions for skipping chapters heavy on math but I feel that weakens the author's goal of wanting to create a book about mathematics that could be enjoyed by those terrified of math. As the book progresses the math gets more complex and the examples and analogies for it get fewer. As a reader I g ...more
Kara Babcock
I’m disappointed that so many people seem underwhelmed by the autobiographical parts of this book and feel that they are ancillary to Frenkel’s purpose. I disagree: they are, in fact, the heart and soul of Love & Math. Without them, this would be a fairly intense treatise on deep connections between abstract algebra, algebraic geometry, and quantum physics. With them, Frenkel demonstrates how the study of mathematics and a devotion to thought for thought’s sake, to fulfil human curiosity helped ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
As stated in a previous comment, I really enjoyed the first part that contains the story of the author’s first research in mathematics, including some optional mathematical details and motivations. I learned a lot from it.

Unfortunately, after that the details disappear and ideas are sketched in an, for me, incomprehensible way. Further on, the subject changes to autobiography and random musings on e.g. the idea that mathematics is not invented but discovered, supporting Plato’s thesis.

If the b
Maru Kun
The author certainly has a talent for explaining mathematical concepts clearly in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more, if you will excuse the cliche.

I was pleased with myself understanding the idea behind braids and also how "addition" and "identity" could be applied to them in a manner analogous to these ideas in the more conventional maths I was taught at school. I could even glimpse how these concepts might be abstracted to ever higher levels.

We were teased with notion that the symmetr
Ami Iida
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math
I finished reading the e-book just now.
I am greatly surprised ad the group theory widen to applying for
various science fields and math. world.

At first you should read primary "group theory" book.
there are many group theory's key words in the book.

Then please reference my some comments to the book.
Group theory widen and widen to popular science.
Currently it connects with super string theory.

for the future it will connects with popular science,math.,games,etc..............
Chimezie Ogbuji
Nov 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is billed as being both for mathematicians and non-mathematicians, but only the first half of that is correct. The author doesn't make enough of an effort to make the language more accessible for laypeople or at least people who don't do research in math or theoretical physics for a living (which is a general problem of the style of writing in the sciences)
Rick Goff
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
To paraphrase William Hurt from The Big Chill, sometimes you just have to let math flow over you. I realized while reading chapter 2 that I wasn't going to be able to grok and synthesize the mathematical content of this book, but this didn't stop me from enjoying it immensely. The passion of the writer for his subject is contagious, and his biography is interesting and inspiring.

Frenkel's book is a memoir of his introduction to The Other Math, the one that is creative and deep. He is diligent an
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: math-and-science
Frenkel takes the reader through the world of modern math in an expression of great passion for an often maligned subject. He interlaces the story of mathematical developments in the last fifty or so years with his personal story of growing up in Soviet Russia and emigrating to the United States. The stories of anti-Semitism he encountered in Russia are cringe worthy. Imagine being singled out with especially difficult testing for a college entrance exam, which you still pass, and then being fai ...more
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Here's the thing ... I like math. I teach honors level math to high school students, I enjoy working on problems recreationally and I have read (and enjoyed) many math related books. So, it's not because I don't like or understand mathematics that this book did not appeal to me. I liked the autobiographical parts about learning math and pursuing his dream no matter the obstacles, but I think the math was too abstract for me (and especially for the lay audience for which it is intended). Perhaps ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
(4.0) Trouble following at points in the mathy bits, not sure it's the fault of the book :( Enjoyed the autobiographical stuff a lot though.
Aug 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I did not have the privilege of taking a class with Edward Frenkel while a student at UC Berkeley, but his book has been on my radar for a while. The biographical details about Frenkel's upbringing in the former Soviet Union and the anti-Semitic discrimination he faced are truly interesting, and as a math nerd I enjoyed the math portions too. But I'm skeptical that someone without a math background or a ton of interest and motivation would actually be converted to thinking math is beautiful base ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: blue
Not long after I started reading this book, I happened to have it out at a coffeeshop when an acquaintance of mine saw it, and said she had read it as well. Or rather, the first half of it.

I didn't ask why only the first half, but I think I can guess. It is Edward Frenkel's mission in life to make you love math, and not just the relatively accessible kind that you might find in newspaper puzzles. He wants to introduce you to the Langlands Program, a sort of Theory of Everything for advanced math
James Foster

“Love and Math” is an unusual mash-up of three different stories. In one, a young Jewish prodigy transcends the antisemitism of Soviet Russia to take a preeminent place in the world of professional mathematics. The second story is love for the mathematics itself—a radical unification of different, apparently distinct, fields of pure mathematics. The third story is a reflection on how erotic love is built on symmetries, much like the mathematics. I found this third bit silly and strained.

The auth
Angie Reisetter
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-related
Disclaimer: I don't think I was the target audience for this book. I'm a physicist. I use math a lot, and many of the concepts in the book were either already familiar to me or at least on the periphery of my awareness. I got a lot out of the math explanations here. I really appreciated that, but I think that maybe Frenkel fell short of his goal of making these concepts accessible to the average reader.

Maybe the goal, though, isn't for everyone to understand the concepts, but appreciate his pass
J. Nick Fisk
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't in good faith give this book a 5 star rating, despite my immense enjoyment of it. The introduction frames the book as an exploration of modern math and how to appreciate it--with particular focus on the layperson. Unfortunately, this promise is never really delivered upon. The book is far more a memoir--which is far from a bad thing. Dr. Frenkel lived an interesting life and it was a compelling tale of his voyage through mathematics. However, the math quickly flies off the rails. I am a ...more
Caroline Gordon
Wondering why my undergraduate degree in pure maths didn't cover the concepts that drove Frenkel through his love affair with maths, it seemed to me a fairly uninspiring area that never really got too hard, unlike applied maths which was much more real and much more satisfyingly hard.
His stated mission is to show the world what maths is really about, I think he succeeded but he is preaching to the converted in selling the idea that maths is at the heart of the meaning of the universe. In fact m
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book will leave you breathless. While it's not an "easy" read, Frenkel does a great job of making complicated concepts understandable and interesting. He exposed me to a world I never even knew existed (even though I've taken over a dozen applied math courses in university). If you don't finish this book with a burning desire to learn more about the beautiful world of mathematics, I'd be willing to bet you didn't give this book the time or attention it needs to be fully appreciated. This is ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When Ian Stewart was in his last year of high school, he met a professional mathematicians who opened the magical world of math to him. He wants to do for us what this professor did for him: unlock the power and beauty of mathematics. It doesn't matter if we happen to be the sort of person who never used the word "math" and "love" in the same sentence. Our worldview will never be the same.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-engineering
A mathematical biography, the story of Edward Frenkel's beginnings in Russia with the very uphill battle to do advanced studies. He had to overcome blatant anti-Semitic discrimination in the Soviet Union, and he did this with a refusal to give up or to give in.

Much of the book discussed symmetry, and how it has been applied to analysis in the search for quarks, etc. The language was not hard to understand, although I did have to take this very slow. And go over it several times. My preference in
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Edward Frenkel (Russian: Эдвард Френкель, Edvard Frenkel'; born May 2, 1968) is a mathematician working in representation theory, algebraic geometry, and mathematical physics. He is a professor of mathematics at University of California, Berkeley.

Frenkel grew up in Kolomna, Russia to a family of Russian Jews. As a high school student he studied higher mathematics privately with Evgeny Evgenievich

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