Like a hunter who sees 'a bit of blood' on the trail, that's how Princeton mathematician Peter Sarnak describes the feeling of chasing an idea that seems to have a chance of success. If this is so, then the jungle of abstractions that is mathematics is full of frenzied hunters these days. They are out stalking big game: the resolution of 'The Riemann Hypothesis', seems to be in their sights. The Riemann Hypothesis is about the prime numbers, the fundamental numerical elements. Stated in 1859 by Professor Bernhard Riemann, it proposes a simple law which Riemann believed a 'very likely' explanation for the way in which the primes are distributed among the whole numbers, indivisible stars scattered without end throughout a boundless numerical universe. Just eight years later, at the tender age of thirty-nine Riemann would be dead from tuberculosis, cheated of the opportunity to settle his conjecture. For over a century, the Riemann Hypothesis has stumped the greatest of mathematical minds, but these days frustration has begun to give way to excitement. This unassuming comment is revealing astounding connections among nuclear physics, chaos and number theory, creating a frenzy of intellectual excitement amplified by the recent promise of a one million dollar bountry. The story of the quest to settle the Riemann Hypothesis is one of scientific exploration. It is peopled with solitary hermits and gregarious cheerleaders, cool calculators and wild-eyed visionaries, Nobel Prize-winners and Fields Medalists. To delve into the Riemann Hypothesis is to gain a window into the world of modern mathematics and the nature of mathematics research. Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis will open wide this window so that all may gaze through it in amazement.
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In 1859 a German professor named Bernhard Riemann postulated a law capable of describing with an amazing degree of accuracy the baffling occurrence of prime numbers; coming up with its proof has been the holy grail of mathematicians ever since. In "Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis, Dan Rockmore, a prominent mathematician in his own right, takes us from Euclid's pondering of the infinitude of the primes through modern efforts to prove the Riemann hypothesis-efforts that astonishingly connect the primes to the statistics of solitaire, chaos theory, and even the mysteries of quantum mechanics. Along the way, he introduces us to the many brilliant and fascinating thinkers who have contributed to this work, from the most famous mathematician of all time, Carl Friedrich Gauss (Riemann's teacher), to the intellectual giants David Hilbert and Freeman Dyson.
A lively, comprehensive, and accessible examination of one of the most compelling unsolved problems in mathematics, "Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis tells us the full story of the quest to find that elusive solution.
Dan Rockmore is a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Dartmouth College. He received his A.B. in Mathematics from Princeton University in 1984 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1989. He taught for two years at Columbia University as a Ritt Assistant Professor before coming to Dartmouth in 1991. In 1995 he was one of only 15 scientists to receive a five year Presidential Faculty Fellowship from the White House for excellence in education and research. He has held visiting positions at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Santa Fe Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He has authored and co-authored numerous scientific articles as well as two books, mainly around the subject of the design of efficient algorithms for data analysis and data transmission.
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