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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  4,408 ratings  ·  225 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 November 14th 2014 by Harper Perennial (first published 2003)
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Brendon McBain God is often used when a phenomenon cannot be explained, and prime numbers have many unexplained properties.

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Natural Religion

If there is advanced technological life elsewhere in the universe, it would unlikely be Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist. It would however certainly know the same mathematics that we do. And it would understand the phenomenon of the prime numbers and their significance as much as, perhaps more than, we do. Mathematics is the natural religion of the cosmos; and prime numbers are its central mystery.

Prime numbers are those integers which can only be divided without rema
There’s surprisingly little maths in this book about an unsolved maths problem, only a few scattered and rather simple equations and some graphs, all of which should be understandable for non-mathematicians. And even if you don’t, you can still follow the text easily. Marcus du Sautoy works a lot with metaphors, which is frowned upon by real mathematicians, but which help to keep the layman in line.

So, what’s the deal? In short: a hitherto unsolved problem in the field of number theory, the so c
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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
Noel Bush
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
kartik narayanan
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I love maths and books on math. But this book just plain bored me to tears. I made it halfway through and could not find any reason to continue.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: protodidact
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.
Apr 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Baal Of
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
Hidden behind this unfortunately ugly cover is a beautiful story about the Riemann Hypothesis and the mathematics around the prime numbers. During my first semester of college my Calculus professor tried to talk me into going into mathematics instead of computer science, and there is a part of me that regrets not having done so, but then I read a book like this, and realize that the minds behind these theorems and proofs are so far beyond anything I could ever hope to achieve that I'm humbled an ...more
Nina Tandon
May 16, 2009 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
Barun Patra
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Prime numbers and their distribution have always been one of the more interesting subjects to talk about. This book takes you through the whole journey of starting out with finding the first few prime numbers to trying to find a pattern on how primes are spread through the universe of natural numbers. The list of protagonists include Euclid, Euler, Gauss, Riemann, Polignac, Hilbert, Hardy, Littlewood, Ramanujan, Godel, Turing to name a few. Naturally, the book focuses on one of the most importan ...more
Huw Evans
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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
Aaron Humphrey
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, library
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
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it
The main idea of the book is the Riemann hypothesis.The book begins with the story of the primes.It recounts the main characters, who have contributed with respect to Riemann hypothesis.
The Riemann hypothesis,regarded as the most important unsolved problems not only in mathematics but the whole science .
This is an important book for me.

Kaan Kçsln
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Makes me wanna go and solve the Riemann hypothesis.
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My flatmates can attest to my absolute love of this book and, now, prime numbers with the amount of times I audibly gasped and then forced them to hear me read a passage aloud. I love this book and everyone in it, with the exception of the one Nazi mathematician.
Ditesh Gathani
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Engaging read, and at times thrilling. Particularly enjoyed the analogy between quantum systems and distribution of zeros of the Reimann Zeta function.
Joel George
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little apprehensive about reading the latter part of The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics, when it got a little weary, and I went through a few discouraging reviews I found here on the style of writing it followed. But I must say, that I am glad I stuck to my instincts, without letting too much room for empty prejudice to put a damper on the experience.

I am by no means anything more than a dilettante in rigorous mathematics, but I thoroughly enj
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
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
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Patrick Hewlett
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
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
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
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?
Ami Iida
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Riemann hypothesis, prime numbers
Shelves: math
This book is written with respect to Riemann hypothesis.
It has been written about the history of the prime number.

Riemann hypothesis is not yet resolved.
It is written in relation to the process of solving Riemann hypothesis.
It is written also in relation to other mathematical problems with it.
They are a great achievement.
This book is not conclusive.
Human being have the development of the Riemann hypothesis.
Early I hope we can solve Riemann hypothesis .
It will contribute to humanity.
Robin Hughes
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nithesh Satish
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, favorites
This is one of the most wonderful books on Math that I have read. Added it only now, since goodreads suggested me to read it again. I had just not updated it here. A detailed writeup is on my blog
Synthetic Vox
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: given-away
The first two-thirds were enthralling. By the time it hit Turing it became a bit of a slog—right when the theories were getting ever more esoteric. I look forward to understanding better any further breakthroughs in prime number theory.
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Goodreads Italia: GdL Saggistica Gennaio-Febbraio 2019 L'enigma dei numeri primi 9 93 Jul 05, 2019 02:44AM  
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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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