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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and infuriating, 5 Oct. 2004
This review is from: The Music of the Primes: Why an Unsolved Problem in Mathematics Matters (Paperback)
This is a book I found fascinating and infuriating in turns. It is an excellent layman's history of number theory with particular reference to prime numbers and the Riemann zeta function. As such it is well worth the reading.
However I found that there are certain elements, more of style than anything else, that annoyed me. Most of the results are handed to us without any proof whatsoever. All right, some of these proofs would be obviously well beyond the layman, but one is described as being understandable by the ancient Greeks (who started the whole thing) so why not include it as a footnote or appendix?
Having established fairly early on that the points where a mathematical function "reaches sea level" are known as zeros, why keep reverting to the sea level analogy?
And although the underlying theme throughout the book is the apparent inextricable link between the zeta function's zeros and counting primes, the Riemann hypothesis, I could find no clear, concise statement of exactly what Riemann said.
Spanning over 2000 years, from the ancient Greeks to the 21st century, this is a book I would thoroughly recommend.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Aug 2008 12:09:21 BDT
For a more technical discussion of the Zeta function, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riemann_zeta_function

Posted on 17 Jun 2009 20:08:36 BDT
J. Harvey says:
Good review, but having just read, "The Archimedes Codex: Revealing The Secrets Of The World's Greatest Palimpsest" I can assure you that "being understandable by the ancient Greeks" does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that it can be understood by the modern layman. Archimedes and his peers were every bit as clever as today's mathematicians and their work is just as complex.
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