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Customer Review

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What are you waiting for? Read it!, 26 Aug. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics (Hardcover)
From the very first pages of this book, I became completely hooked and could not stop reading it eagerly until the very end. There has been some time and very few books capable of such an impact on me. I bought it almost by accident, so the reward could not be greatest.
What makes this book so unique to readers? Besides, it is a book about Mathematics.
You could think of Mathematics as a far away country where very few can afford to travel to, so most of us can only have some glimpses of what such a country might be. What John Derbyshire presents to readers is somehow like a documentary about that distant country, where the landscapes, the people, the culture are presented, so we can in fact know a bit more about that far-away country although we are unable to breathe its atmosphere, talk to the people, taste its culture, something reserved only for real mathematicians. What is really fantastic in this book is that you feel you are really embedded in that atmosphere, like as if you could almost touch the leaves, and the stones. The motto is the so-called "Riemann Hypothesis", one of the most important unsolved problems in mathematics which itself has implications for the knowledge of the distribution of prime numbers. Departing from this, John Derbyshire takes us along a fantastic travel on Mathematics, also on the recent History of Mathematics, present us the historical context at each pace, and gives us portraits of famous (and also less well-known) mathematicians that, one way or the other, have tackled the same or related problems and whose discoveries were important for the attempts to prove the "Riemann Hypothesis". The book is not only excellently written, is also extremely clear, and we can trust the author: if at the end of this book you are unable to understand what the Riemann Hypothesis is all about, you can pretty much be sure that you will never understand it. The way the author presents the reader with the mathematics is really smooth and it hardly could be much clearer and simpler. However, this demands from the reader the necessary commitment to go along with the author. Just think on mountain climbing not being a professional: it is surely hard to do it, but you have an excellent tutor by your side all the time, saying where you should put your foot, and then your hand, to go a step further up. One thing I assure you, once you get to the top you really get astonished by the view presented before your eyes. I cannot express myself better than this to describe you what I felt when I reached the end of this book. As an extra bonus, John Derbyshire has a great sense of humour.
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