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Love and Math [Hardcover]

Edward Frenkel
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Oct 2013
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 mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we've never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate book, Frenkel shows that mathematics, far from occupying a specialist niche, goes to the heart of all matter, uniting us across cultures, time and space.

Love and Math tells two intertwined stories: of the wonders of mathematics and of one young man's journey learning and living it. Having braved a discriminatory educational system to become one of the twenty-first century s leading mathematicians, Frenkel now works on one of the biggest ideas to come out of math in the last 50 years: the Langlands Program. Considered by many to be a Grand Unified Theory of mathematics, the Langlands Program enables researchers to translate findings from one field to another so that they can solve problems, such as Fermat's last theorem, that had seemed intractable before.

At its core, Love and Math is a story about accessing a new way of thinking, which can enrich our lives and empower us to better understand the world and our place in it. It is an invitation to discover the magic hidden universe of mathematics.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (17 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465050743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465050741
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Powerful, passionate and inspiring. --The New York Times

Frenkel s winsome new memoir... is three things: a Platonic love letter to mathematics; an attempt to give the layman some idea of its most magnificent drama-in-progress; and an autobiographical account, by turns inspiring and droll, of how the author himself came to be a leading player in that drama. --New York Review of Books

Frenkel writes that math directs the flow of the universe. It s as elegant as music and as much a part of our intellectual heritage as literature. He strives to awaken our wonder by taking us on [a] tour of his research, in which he reveals a hidden world few of us encountered in school... Frenkel aims to make it understandable, even beautiful. --New York Times Book Review

Frenkel's gusto will draw readers into his own quest, pursuing the deepest realities of mathematics as if it were a giant jigsaw puzzle, in which no one knows what the final image is going to look like. --Publisher's Weekly

Reasoning that some of us are unwilling to engage with maths because we cannot see it, Professor Frenkel relates it tirelessly to things we can. A colourful paean to numbers. --The Guardian

If you re not a mathematician this book might make you want to become one. And if you are a mathematician you will feel better about your profession. --Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile

The words love and math aren t usually uttered in the same breath. But mathematician Edward Frenkel is on a mission to change that...[in his] book, Love and Math [in which] the tenured professor at the University of California at Berkeley argues that the boring way that math is traditionally taught in schools has led to a widespread ignorance that may have even been responsible for the recession... [the] book tells his personal story and goes on to describe his research in the Langlands program, as well as recent mathematical discoveries that aren t regularly taught in classrooms. --The Wall Street Journal

I don't know if I've ever used the words love and math together, but this book changed that. In the tradition of his heroes Andre Weil and C. N. Yang, Edward Frenkel writes of the objective beauty of numbers. Like musical notes, they exist apart from the mind, daring us to fathom their depths and assemble them in arcane narratives that tell the story of us. Reading this book, one is compelled to drop everything and give math another try; to partake of the ultimate mystery. --Chris Carter, Creator of the X-Files

Part ode, part autobiography, Love and Math is an admirable attempt to lay bare the beauty of numbers for all to see. --Scientific American

Two fascinating narratives are interwoven in Love and Math, one mathematical, the other personal... Frenkel deftly takes the reader ... to the far reaches of our current understanding. He seeks to lay bare the beauty of mathematics for everyone. As he writes, There is nothing in this world that is so deep and exquisite and yet so readily available to all.' --Marcus du Sautoy, Nature

Two fascinating narratives are interwoven in Love and Math, one mathematical, the other personal... Frenkel deftly takes the reader ... to the far reaches of our current understanding. He seeks to lay bare the beauty of mathematics for everyone. As he writes, There is nothing in this world that is so deep and exquisite and yet so readily available to all.' --Marcus du Sautoy, Nature

About the Author

Edward Frenkel is a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, which he joined in 1997 after spending a few years on the faculty at Harvard University. His recent work has focused on the Langlands Program and dualities in Quantum Field Theory. Frenkel has authored two monographs and over eighty articles in mathematical journals, and he has lectured on his work around the world. The winner of the Hermann Weyl Prize in mathematical physics, he lives in Berkeley, California.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book. 6 Nov 2013
This is a wonderful book. It is a voyage through mathematics, seen
and illustrated as an ethereal and universal body of knowledge (though
one which is capable of making the most precise and concrete predictions
about the world we live in) yet one which is at the same time very
much a human endeavour. Not in the sense that mathematical truths
are subjective, but in the sense that the circumstances that bring about
their discovery are very much steeped in human and historic circumstances.
Would so many brilliant Russian jews have devoted themselves to
Mathematics if discrimination had not closed so many other paths
for them? Would we in the West have known about the mathematics
they discovered if the Eastern block had not collapsed? These are,
in my mind fascinating questions raised by the book.

And yet the book is a lot more: it offers a glimpse of one of the most
advanced areas of present day mathematics (the Langlands program).
Will you close the book with a complete understanding of what that
program is? Probably not, but then again its ultimate implications are
still being worked out, and the book is not a scientific tract. It offers
a panoramic view of a magnificent landscape, a Rosetta stone of
Mathematics, and as such conveys what it is that mathematicians
do and what living mathematics is.

As a side comment, I am amused by the statement of one of the
reviewers that Frenkel's book "parades a constant reference to
the plight of Jewish students in Russia during the Stalin epoch".
The book begins in the mid eighties, more than thirty years after
Stalin's death... Perhaps the reviewer might give the book, or better
a history book a closer read? And even it Frenkel's book were an
"anti Stalin tract" (it isn't at all), would there be something wrong
in criticizing Stalin?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another 'Dr Zhivago' Experience! 16 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Like one or two other books I've read, I had to read this one twice to really enjoy it, as the first time through I did find it hard going, with 'sheaves' and the like, and not really sure where the book was going. I had almost decided to pass it on to Oxfam as soon as I finished!

But I hadn't really taken in the intro, where it was made clear that it would relate to advances in Quantum theory, which I have read a bit about, and once I got through to that late in the tale, I realised that the book was quite a masterly, ordered, presentation of how his maths experiences worked through to the culmination of explaining how the phsysics developed by Gell-Mann, etc., grew so naturally from the maths of previous generations (as was the case with Einstein).

So, I gave it a second go, and found the book then most interesting on several levels:

- his love of maths and physics, and why, and the fact that he made a film to try and popularise the subject;

- the problems of being a Russian citizen, together with the interesting comment that 1984 Russia was eerily similar to George Orwell's book of the same name (written in 1948 of course);

- his broad interests outside of maths;

- the interesting way (second time through!
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars art of maths 9 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book combines a variety of unusual features which make it absolutely unique.

A distinctive feature of this book is that its author is one of the best mathematicians of our time. He combines his deep mathematical work with applying his time and effort to explain art of mathematics in different forms, ranging from movies to books.

He is a most gifted presenter who is able to explain mathematical concepts in a nice and understandable way. He does this very emotionally and this book exerts a deep impact.

The book contains a very sincere description of the author's path in mathematics, which is very dramatic. The narrative reads like a text of a movie.

The author convincingly writes about many ways how love is important for mathematical work and how mathematical discovery is similar in its nature to various forms of art.

Do not hesitate to order and read this book, you will be so much rewarded. Most likely, you will discover how much different is mathematics from what you thought it was. And then, give it to your friends and relatives to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read a lot of books about popular maths and this is one of the best I've ever read. Its a very human book - the author weaves a lot of autobiographical material into his account and some of this is very moving - particularly the sad story of how institutional anti-semitism prevented him from gaining entry as an undergraduate into Moscow University.

One of the main scientific themes of the book is an account of the "geometric Langlands programme" which is one of the most exciting areas of modern mathematics. This is tough stuff, but readers should stick with it because it is so fascinating, and you won't find a better non-technical account than Frenkel's. Broadly speaking, the original Langlands programme, which was proposed by Robert langlands in the 1960s, is a web of conjectures relating the theory of numbers to properties of certain curves. The recent solution of Fermat's last theorem by Andrew Wiles exploited exactly this sort of connection. Now the geometric Langlands programme takes this one stage further and says that there is a third piece of the puzzle which links numbers, curves and high-dimensional geometry. An amazing new twist to the story is that string theory, which has been much publicised recently as a "theory of everything" in fundamental physics, is also weaved into this web of relationships. So even if string theory turns out to be a disappointment in physics, it still has a major role to play in pure mathematics! Wouldn't it be wonderful if string theory could have something new to say about the properties of prime numbers? Well from what I've read in this book, that may not be such a far-fetched idea. Frenkel is an expert on this stuff. He writes about it with authority and passion, and has the rare gift of being able to write clearly for non-experts. This is a really inspiring read.
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