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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful achievement in mathematical exposition.
Following an introductory chapter of a general nature we are treated to 15 chapters exhibiting well-chosen and wide-ranging examples, including the well-known Goldbach conjecture, and squaring the circle, through to the so-called Millennium Problems. Don't expect a rehash of other authors' accounts of these problems: Stewart injects rare enthusiasm, vitality, and fresh...
Published 15 months ago by Mr R

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as expected
I'm a bit of a fan of Ian Stewart but this time he hasn't quite hit the mark. He does indeed deal with the great mathematical problems but he seems to have trouble finding the right level of difficulty and detail. So he does the historical perspective well but becomes confusing in the mathematical perspective. Sometimes there is an explanation and sometimes he simply...
Published 15 months ago by Macboy


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite as expected, 29 April 2013
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I'm a bit of a fan of Ian Stewart but this time he hasn't quite hit the mark. He does indeed deal with the great mathematical problems but he seems to have trouble finding the right level of difficulty and detail. So he does the historical perspective well but becomes confusing in the mathematical perspective. Sometimes there is an explanation and sometimes he simply admits that it's too advanced and pushes on. This approach left me wanting fewer great problems and more extended and clearer explanations.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful achievement in mathematical exposition., 26 April 2013
Following an introductory chapter of a general nature we are treated to 15 chapters exhibiting well-chosen and wide-ranging examples, including the well-known Goldbach conjecture, and squaring the circle, through to the so-called Millennium Problems. Don't expect a rehash of other authors' accounts of these problems: Stewart injects rare enthusiasm, vitality, and fresh insights throughout. Particularly spellbinding are the chapters on the Mordell Conjecture, Fermat's Last Theorem (yes, I realise it has been flogged to death in recent years, but this chapter is truly refreshing), and the Riemann Hypothesis. The Hodge Conjecture is perhaps overambitious; but the real coup is the last chapter, entitled 'Twelve for the future', and I defy anyone to read that without a frisson of excitement! Some of these are immediately accessible (the Collatz Conjecture, and the 'Lonely Runner Conjecture') and the final and irresistible ABC Conjecture will have you searching the internet.
Prospective undergraduates cannot fail to be inspired by this book: it is the best inducement to study mathematics that I've seen in some time, so every school should have at least one copy on the library shelves. Pupils will find perfectly intelligible accounts of extensions of number systems (rings without unique factorisation), elliptic curves, and much more. Of course, many graduates are familiar with Stewart's university texts (Galois Theory, Algebraic Number Theory...)
Just one or two oversights. for example, I didn't think much of the phrase on page 216, which talks of forces generated by a particle's acceleration (it's the other way round). Misprints are mercifully few: eg on page 167 we read of Titchmarsh working in 1986 (long after his demise).
This must be Ian Stewart's most attractive book on popular mathematics.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good light maths read, 7 April 2014
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Informative about interesting ideas without being incomprehensible or irritatingly trivial nor irrelevant.
Ian Stewart proves his skill with words and numbers again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good book, 2 Mar 2014
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This has been a good book to read and very useful in my teaching career and studies I am doing at the same time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - very clearly written, 10 July 2013
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rosy44 (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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I found this book exceeded my expectations of "popular" books on mathematics and physics topics. The explanations are comprehensive putting the problems into historical and mathematical contexts which give the reader a very good insight into why they are "great" rather than simply a bit of a puzzle. Also the author manages make the stories readable by successfully treading the fine line between being lightweight and being too rigorous to be readable. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to know about the sorts of problems mathematicians wrestle with.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just wanted to add..., 28 April 2013
...my enthusiastic endorsement of this exceptional book. Ian Stewart never dilutes his mathematics, but always makes it accessible & interesting for everyone.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating in depth treatment, 30 Jan 2014
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As a methematician, I found the book fascinating providing historical background and more in depth treatment than I expected for a book popularising mathematics. Entertaining, educational and thought provoking.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Value, 18 Jan 2014
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Fine book -
as nice as expected -
even better than expected.
Good value for money.
delighted about the contents
many thanks
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maths for hobby mathematicians, 11 Nov 2013
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Mr. G. Saxby (Wolverhampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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Beautifully written; no oversimplifying and no condescending, and with the odd touch of wry humour, too. This is not a book for the mathematically underprivileged, though.Although the author puts all his material in the most straightforward way, it isn't all easy going. If you are halfway to a maths or physics degree and find number theory fascinating, this book will be exactly what you want.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant, 15 July 2013
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Paul Baker - See all my reviews
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Ian Stewart at his very best yet. It shouldn't be underestimated just what a demanding task Professor Stewart sets himself in this book. The problems are mostly easy enough to express but to outline the historical progress made with each problem in a meaningful but accessible way that leaves the reader educated in the mathematical approach taken and to identify and tie together the deeper over-arching principles that human progress through difficult maths problems have often shared - that is tough and he does it quite brilliantly. A real masterpiece, the product of many long hours of careful thought on approach I suspect, and a super book for all gifted GCSE or A Level pupils to help the budding love of the subject blossom.
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The Great Mathematical Problems
The Great Mathematical Problems by Ian Stewart (Paperback - 6 Mar 2014)
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