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Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  3,551 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
In this critically acclaimed international bestseller, Petros Papachristos, a mathematical prodigy, has devoted much of his life trying to prove one of the greatest mathematical challenges of all time: Goldbach's Conjecture, the deceptively simple claim that every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes. His feverish and singular pursuit of this goal has come ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published February 3rd 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 1992)
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BlackOxford
Trust the Young

Number theory has nothing to do with the real world, unless you happen to be a number theorist. Then it is the real world; everything else is illusory. Number theory has no application to anything except... well, numbers. It eschews other branches of mathematics as pedestrian. Physics, engineering, and even geometry, although they use numbers, are simply diversions for the less talented, that is to say inferior, intellect. Mere calculation is trivial even if it is arduous and comp
...more
Mohikanos
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Εξαιρετικό βιβλίο!
Ένα υπέροχο παραμύθι που σε ταξιδεύει στον παράξενο κόσμο των μαθηματικών. Ο Δοξιάδης γράφει απλά, δεν χρησιμοποιεί βαρύγδουπες εκφράσεις και άλλα μέσα εντυπωσιασμού, καταφέρνει όμως να σε μυήσει στη μαγεία ενός άλλου κόσμου, ο οποίος φαντάζει τόσο ξένος (και πιο ενδιαφέρον) από τη μονοδιάστατη καθημερινότητα που βιώνουμε και αντιλαμβανόμαστε.
Και, μολονότι η ιστορία καταπιάνεται με ένα από τα πιο δημοφιλή άλυτα προβλήματα των μαθηματικών, σε κανένα σημείο δεν κουράζει με τις σ
...more
Anna
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Εξαιρετικό βιβλίο για τα μαθηματικά από τον Απόστολο Δοξιάδη, ο οποίος - μεταξύ άλλων - είναι ένας περήφανος μαθηματικός. Η γραφή του είναι απλή και ουσιώδης, με αποτέλεσμα το βιβλίο να είναι προσιτό σε όλους (θυμάμαι το είχα διαβάσει μαθήτρια ακόμα). Ο αφηγητής είναι ένας νεαρός μαθητής που προσπαθεί να μάθει περισσότερα στοιχεία για τον παράξενο θείο Πέτρο, το μαύρο πρόβατο της οικογένειας, που οι υπόλοιποι πάντα θεωρούσαν ότι βρισκόταν σε έναν δικό του κόσμο.

Πράγματι, ο θείος Πέτρος βρισκότα
...more
Arghya Dutta
Aug 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mathematicians who do Number theory always awe me. I like numbers. I was surely amazed to find the series:

1+2+3+4+… = - 1/12 (Don’t miss this and the wiki article).

But, I don’t perceive the number 65 as some city gentleman with bowler hat and rolled umbrella who doesn't like to stay away from his prime divisor 13 who is a goblin-like creature, supple and lightning-quick in his moves. Or, for that matter, the number 8191 also does not seem to me as a man wearing French gamin with a gauloise cigar
...more
Grazia
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Posseduto dalla passione

Ebbene sì. ... si può essere posseduti anche dalla passione... per la matematica.

Il breve romanzo parla della vita di Petros, brillante e giovane mente, che decide di dedicare la sua vita ad una causa incomprensibile ai più, la risoluzione di un difficilissimo problema matematico: la congettura di Goldbach.

Non importa quanto sia ardua l'impresa, confidente nelle proprie capacità e disposto ad una dedizione totale alla causa, si chiude nel suo studio sicuro del proprio suc
...more
Katerina Charisi
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Δεν ξέρω αν το βιβλίο θεωρείται νεανικό (;) ή τι ακριβώς υποτίθεται πως έπρεπε να είναι: Στην Ελλάδα πέρασε απαρατήρητο, δεν είχα (και μάλλον δεν έχω – ακόμα) ιδέα ποιος ακριβώς είναι ο Δοξιάδης, φαίνεται πως οι παλιοί και ψαγμένοι βιβλιοπώλες τον ξέρουν καλά, τόσο που μάλλον χαίρονται όταν κάποιος αναζητεί τα βιβλία του, (Δοξιάδη! Βέβαια! Μου είπαν στο Μοναστηράκι τις προάλλες με τρελή χαρά) κάποιοι βιάστηκαν να τον θάψουν, ειδικά όταν στο εξωτερικό το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο αγκαλιάστηκε θερμά, με ...more
Roberto
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grecia, scienza, 1001
"Le forme create dal matematico, come quelle create dal pittore o dal poeta, devono essere belle; le idee, come i colori o le parole, devono legarsi armoniosamente. La bellezza è il requisito fondamentale: al mondo non c'è un posto perenne per la matematica brutta."

Ecco di cosa parla il libro: del fascino della matematica, intesa come disciplina che deve soddisfare criteri estetici, creativi ed artistici. La matematica come arte, in quanto richiede creatività, deve generare prodotti necessariame
...more
Aprile
Alla fine, torno all'epigrafe
“Archimede sarà ricordato anche quando ci si dimenticherà di Eschilo, poiché le lingue muoiono, ma le idee matematiche no. ‘Immortalità’ può essere una parola ingenua, ma un matematico ha più probabilità di chiunque altro di raggiungere ciò che essa designa.” G.H. Hardy, Apologia di un matematico.
Questa l’epigrafe al libro, che ha colpito la mia attenzione non all’inizio ma a lettura finita, quando sono tornata sui miei passi a controllare se ci fosse una prefazione.
...more
Josef Del Processo
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: regali-natale
IL DIAVOLO

libellino divertente e ben scritto, una storia anche con un certo valore pedagogico pur se a mio avviso senza ambizioni letterarie “alte”
quanto alla pazzia dei matematici, non ho dati puntuali ma tenderei a pensare che non si discosta molto da quella in altri campi dell’arte (vedi mozart, van gogh o altro)
la verità è che i veri geni sono matti e visionari, in qualsiasi campo si adoperino, e giacché la matematica è la somma arte i matematici sono un po’ più pazzi degli altri, tutto qua
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: number-phobics
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Apparently maths can be fun. Not something I ever really appreciated as a child. Mostly maths was a lesson in which eye contact was to be avoided, a) to limit the chances of being called upon to make any kind of answer regarding anything even vaguely numeric and b) because the maths teacher was kind of creepily weird. This book is what I'd regard as one of the more unconventional additions to the 1001 books list and I really enjoyed learning about the maths as well as Uncle Petros' life story. B ...more
N.J. Ramsden
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A very pleasing little novel. Clever, witty, and enjoyable. Unfortunately it's also pretty forgettable, and I fail to recall more than a hazy glow of general satisfaction from my reading of this.

Of course, not the least of its pleasures lies in watching a bookshop assistant struggle with their keyboard as you ask "Do you have Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis?"

Yeah.
Cloudbuster
La conformazione psicologica del vero matematico è vicina a quella del poeta o del compositore o, in altre parole, di una persona interessata alla creazione della bellezza e alla ricerca dell’armonia e della perfezione.

La vera protagonista di questo romanzo è la matematica. Non quella arida e noiosa che si insegna a scuola, fatta di astruse procedure di calcolo, ma quella grandiosa costruzione della mente umana che è comparabile da un lato all’arte e dall’altro alla filosofia. La matematica può
...more
Christiana Hadji
Δεν είμαι σίγουρη με ποιά κριτήρια να αξιολογήσω το βιβλίο αυτό, και θα εξηγήσω αμέσως το ...θεώρημα μου.
Το πρώτο μέρος του βιβλίου, πριν μάθουμε δηλαδή την ιστορία του θείου Πέτρου, δεν έχει ουδεμία σχέση με το δεύτερο μέρος, δηλαδή την ιστορία της μαθηματικής του καριέρας.
Στο πρώτο μέρος, η υπεραπλουστευμένη πλοκή, η "αφελής" γλώσσα, οι μονοδιάστατοι χαρακτήρες και ο άχρωμος-άοσμος-άγευστος αφηγητής, μου έδωσαν την εντύπωση ότι διάβαζα εφηβικό μυθιστόρημα, γεγονός που με απογοήτευσε γιατί εί
...more
Matthew
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Math lovers, science lovers, knowledge lovers, dreamers
Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture tells the story of a brilliant mathematician obsessed with proving Goldbach's Conjecture (as reformulated by Euler: every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes). Despite the seemingly difficult mathematical subject, the book is a quick and easy read. This is a testament to the clear and simple prose of the author, himself a mathematician by training.

While math is the main focus of the book, an underlying theme is the question of how and why
...more
David
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Se podría decir que yo soy un entusiasta de la matemática, y me ha tocado estudiarla como parte de mi carrera de Ingeniería, pero disto mucho de tener esa madera de matemático natural de la que están hechos los genios que se nombran en esta excelente obra de Apostolos Doxiadis. Definitivamente hay que contar con una configuración cerebral y mental bien particular para poder lograr los niveles de abstracción que requiere el pensamiento matemático puro. Creo que esta obra es un homenaje a esa geni ...more
MTK
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ενδιαφέρον και ευκολοδιάβαστο.
Matt
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: notgettingenough

Uncle Petros is considered the black sheep of the family, one of “life’s failures”, by his two younger brothers. His nephew, the first person narrator of the story, sees his uncle only once a year when the family gathers for a ritual visit. The nephew is intrigued by the man and especially by his library of books containing some mysterious symbols like and and . One day he finds out that uncle Petros was a mathematician when he was young. The boy starts to get an interest in mathematics him
...more
Francis
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, compelling, and tragic story of mathematical obsession. As the story starts, Uncle Petros, once a promising young mathematician, has wasted his intellectual gifts, amounted to very little professionally, and his family holds him in contempt but takes care of him. As his nephew tries to discover what happened from him, Uncle Petros reveals his story of how his brilliant start was eclipsed by his all-consuming obsession to crack Goldbach's conjecture. Along the way he crosses paths wi ...more
notgettingenough
What stayed with me, long after I had read A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman, was the tone of regret, that powerful, haunting emotion. He writes of his own regrets in discovering in his thirties that his chosen life was over. He was a physicist, he no longer had any expectation of doing anything that mattered.

When I directed an astrophysics conference one summer and realised that most of the exciting research was being reported by ambitious young people in
...more
Albus Eugene Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Il nostro caro Dio ha fatto i numeri interi, tutto il resto è opera dell'uomo.
Lo sapevate? Ogni numero pari maggiore di 2 può essere scritto come somma di due numeri primi. Sapevatelo, con lo zio Petros e Goldbach.
La faccio breve, stile Filmtv. Lo zio Petros, brillante matematico greco, sacrifica la sua vita alla dimostrazione della Congettura di Goldbach. La famiglia lo isola, ma il nipote gli resta vicino. Tutto scorre tra partite a scacchi, dimostrazioni e ... fagioli, fino a quando ...
Mi
...more
Aasem Bakhshi
Incidentally, I read it while I was trying to built a non-fiction narrative in Urdu on limits of rationality and mysteries surrounding interplay of reason and intuition in the process of mathematical discovery. I absolutely loved how Doxiadis transformed this well-known thread of history of mathematics into an unputdownable novel. It is amazing how simple his characters look and yet how intricately complex their inner struggles are. The bits about Hardy, Littlewood, Godel and Turing are well ble ...more
Terry
Dec 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Repetitive and dull. The meddle of an author is easily tested by how often he or she uses the same phrase to describe something. While Goldbach's Conjecture is central to the plot of the novella the author says the conjecture dozens of time when this reference is un-needed. The author in no way indicates the actual progress of the problem and the introduction of Kurt Godel and Alan Turing was a dis-service to their memory when presented with such dull dialog.

The end was both a twist and totally
...more
Pierre Menard
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who goes crazy for tombola with beans
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Petros
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
A definitely unusual read, this book deals with the obsession of mathematics. Most people would find them to be boring and useless, nothing but theories without a practical use in everyday life (outside adding or multiplying). The book focuses on the life of a mathematician and shows why this type of people love it so much. Turns out (if you don’t know it yet) that mathematicians love solving enigmas concerning numbers. And not in the same sense as others solve puzzles or sudoku; they love provi ...more
Roza Tabassum Ratri
এই বইয়ের টাইটেলের নাকি দুরনাম আছে; এরকম দুরুশচারয নাম বইয়ের দোকানে বললে চিনে না।
আমার অবশয এসব ভাবার অবকাশ ছিল না; কপরদকশূনয বা ঐজাতীয় ঘটনা ছাড়াও আরেকটা সমসযা ছিলঃ আমাদের দেশে এই বই সমভবত পাওয়া যায় না; কোনকালে কাউকে পড়তে শুনেছি বলে মনে পড়ে না ।
তাই কিছুটা উলটারথে চড়েই মনে হয়; আমি নাম শুনে হনযে হয়ে ডিজিটাল কপি খুঁজে পড়া শুরু করে দিলাম।
নাম যেমন সাদামাটা বইয়ের ভাষাশৈলীও তেমনি সাবলীল।হারডি,লিটলউড,গডেল,টিউরিং এমনকি সবয়ং রামানুজন; নামবার থিওরির সব হরতা-করতা বযকতিরা হরদম চোখের সামনে দিয়ে ঘুরে গেল; আমাদের
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Μαριλένα Παππά
Ο άχρηστος, ο αποτυχημένος. Γιατί πάντοτε οτιδήποτε διαφορετικό είναι κάτι άχρηστο, προβληματικό, κάτι τελείως περιττό κι ανάξιο λόγου. Έτσι αντιμετωπίζεται ο θείος Πέτρος από την οικογένειά του, από την κοινωνία αλλά κυρίως από τον ίδιο του τον εαυτό.

Από τον ίδιο άνθρωπο που κάποτε πίστεψε, πίστεψε βαθιά σ’ ένα όραμα. Ότι μπορούσε να βρει τη λύση στην περιβόητη «Εικασία του Γκόλντμπαχ», ένα πρόβλημα που προσπαθούσαν εις μάτην να επιλύσουν γενεές μαθηματικών. Ένα σπουδαίο ταλέντο, που καταλήφθηκ
...more
Nicolle
I didn't have any preconceptions for this book, my only previous knowledge was that it is about mathematics (obviously!) which, to be fair, means I'm already in favour before I turn the front page! Apostolos Doxiadis has quite cleverly comprised the story of his Uncle Petro's mathematical life into this charming novel without going into too much detail about the mathematics itself making it unambiguous for the non-mathematician to read (or a beginner like me). I particularly liked the way the bu ...more
DROPPING OUT
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Take a look at what the other reviewers have said. Overwhelmingly they were seduced by the apparent centrality of narrative, that is Uncle Petros, the mathematical prodigy, and his fixation on solving the Goldbach Conjecture. But that was not the key issue of the novel. That key issue was stated two-thirds into the story - That humankind can aspire to solve everything by reason, but practically speaking, it is the lesson of Icarus that is the bottom line. "Set yourself achievable goals" may seem ...more
David
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mathematics
This is a short book--a fast and easy read. The story describes how a good mathematician sank into an obsession that swallowed up his life. The storyteller's mathematician friend, Sammy, mentions that the trail of a mathematical quest will be littered with intermediate, published results on a variety of topics. So, why didn't Uncle Petros publish his intermediate--but important--results?

Interestingly, I do not remember another novel with as many footnotes as this one! (Actually, I don't remembe
...more
C.P. Cabaniss
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this novel. It's mathematical without being overly specific and tedious, which makes it a great read for many people and not just those who appreciate math.

This story was very cleverly written. You never know the name of the narrator, which seems kind of strange but works really well. It also blends in mathematical history very well, including many well known mathematicians.

This is a very fast read and very enjoyable.
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  • Το λάθος
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Apostolos Doxiadis (Greek: Απόστολος Δοξιάδης) was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1953, and grew up in Greece.
Although interested in fiction and the arts from his youngest years, a sudden and totally unexpected love affair with mathematics led him to New York's Columbia University at the age of fifteen. He did graduate work in Applied Mathematics at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, w
...more
“Truth is not always provable!” 0 likes
“Intuition,’ he answered with a shrug. ‘It is the only tool left to the mathematician in the absence of proof.” 0 likes
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