THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES

SEARCHING TO SOLVE THE GREATEST MYSTERY IN MATHEMASTICS

A Royal Society research fellow takes the Riemann Hypothesis, reputedly the most difficult of all math problems, as the focus for his lively history of number theory.

Du Sautoy (Mathematics/Oxford) begins in 1900 with German mathematician David Hilbert's famous address to the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris, where Hilbert offered 23 unsolved problems as challenges to his colleagues. Among them was the Reimann Hypothesis, which concerns the distribution of prime numbers; it is the only one still unsolved. Greek mathematicians knew that the primes are infinite in number and distributed randomly in the set of natural numbers. Two centuries ago, Carl Friedrich Gauss offered a formula to estimate how many primes lie below any given number; in 1859, Gauss's student, Bernhard Riemann, refined that estimate, based on the incredibly complex Zeta function, but died without proving his hypothesis. With a minimum of equations and mathematical symbols, du Sautoy outlines the progress each succeeding generation has made on the problem. Along the way, readers meet G.H. Hardy and J.E. Littlewood, the twin beacons of the Cambridge math department between the world wars; Ramanujan, the self-taught Indian clerk who claimed that his ideas were given to him by his family goddess; and Atle Selberg, who survived the Nazi occupation of Norway to become a leading light at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies. Alan Turing, the father of modern computers, tried to devise a program to attack the Riemann Hypothesis; now the primes are the key to cryptography. A Boston businessman has offered a million-dollar reward for a proof, although few mathematicians seem to need additional incentive to tackle the Everest of mathematical problems. Du Sautoy keeps the story moving and gives a clear sense of the way number theory is played in his accessible text. (See Karl Sabbagh’s The Riemann Hypothesis, p. 369, which covers similar territory but spotlights current mathematicians searching for a Riemann proof.)

A must for math buffs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-621070-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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