May 13, 2007

A literary walk-out

A short review of Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis by Dan Rockmore.

How (and why!) do you write a book about mathematics and numbers without using either equations or numbers? I got lost in the sea of abstract forced analogies and ended up more confused, irritated, and lost than I had when I began reading the book. I am not a mathematician by training but have a science/engineering background. Even if I did not understand all the details, I had hoped the book would at least grip my attention and make me want to learn more.

Attempting to read the book has been a stark contrast (and a frustrating one at that) to the book I just finished reading - QED - The strange theory of light and matter by the great teacher, Richard Feynman. There couldn't be two more contrasting writing styles! One enlightens and sheds light on complex topics in as simple terms as possible...the other obfuscates in verbiage that tries to be too clever for its own good.

Anyways, why spend time reading a book one is not enjoying? So, 80 pages into the book, I decided to give up (the literary equivalent of a walk-out mid-way through a bad movie!) and have decided to instead read John Derbyshire's book, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, about which I have read good things.

I may try to blog more later about the Riemann hypothesis and Bernhard Riemann himself and his impact on the mathematical and science in general, vis-a-vis the impact of Riemannian geometry on Einstein's general relativity theories.

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