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Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis


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About the Author

Dan Rockmore is a professor of mathematics and computer science at Darmouth College. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, son, and golden retriever.


Now that Fermat's famous last theorem has been solved, the greatest unsolved math problem is the Riemann hypothesis, which concerns the distribution of prime numbers. After the announcement of a $1-million prize for its solution in 2000, three popular books on the hypothesis appeared in 2003, of which the best is John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession (because, contrary to conventional publishing wisdom, it gives the mathematics necessary to understanding the problem). Unfortunately, unlike Fermat's last theorem, the Riemann hypothesis is complicated; indeed, it's all but unfathomable to those without a grasp of such difficult concepts as using imaginary numbers as exponents. Dartmouth math professor Rockmore writes elegantly and makes ample use of analogy, but because he avoids equations, including the zeta function that's an essential component of the hypothesis, he can really talk only around the subject. Compared to his predecessors, Rockmore moves quickly through the history and focuses on more recent approaches to tackling the problem. Still, for all the author's earnest efforts to explain such terms as eigenvalues and Hermitian matrices, most lay readers will be left scratching their heads. Agent, Brockman Inc. (Mar. 22) Forecast: Rockmore's book is more up-to-date than Karl Sabbagh's The Riemann Hypothesis or Marcus du Santoy's The Music of the Primes, but it faces an uphill battle in a crowded field. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Admirably fresh [and] fully accessible. . . . Rockmore is an excellent guide to take you right to the edge of the mathematical map, and he's bang up to date." --New Scientist

"A terrific read. . . . Like a fast-paced detective story. . . . With crystalline clarity and a refreshing sense of fun, Dan Rockmore . . . takes us on a guided tour of the deepest mystery in mathematics." --Steven Strogatz, author of Sync "Remarkable and exciting. . . . The sheer beauty of the writing, the appealing historical perspective, and the drama of the intellectual hunt make you think about the deep nature of the universe as you never have." --Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director of the The SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at UC Santa Barbara

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