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Another 'Dr Zhivago' Experience!,
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This review is from: Love and Math (Hardcover)
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!), the various chapters worked clearly and steadily towards a peak in his career, and logically towards the quantum physics work;
- some new maths concepts he introduced me to, including the way the Langlands Program (a principal maths project he was working on) was illuminating deep connections in quite separate areas of maths;
- comments on how 'pure' mathematics relates to the physical world, and whether it exists 'out there' or relates to our consciousness; a discussion I have come across several times, and always find intriguing, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the lack of any definitive answer!;
- the personal interest (not a major topic, but still quite touching) of and in his family, and his pride when they attended a seminar he was presenting at.
So, in the end definitely worth the time and effort.