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The Music of the Primes

Why an unsolved problem in mathematics matters (Text Only)

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


(This ebook contains a limited number of illustrations.)

The ebook of the critically-acclaimed popular science book by a writer who is fast becoming a celebrity mathematician.

Prime numbers are the very atoms of arithmetic. They also embody one of the most tantalising enigmas in the pursuit of human knowledge. How can one predict when the next prime number will occur? Is there a formula which could generate primes? These apparently simple questions have confounded mathematicians ever since the Ancient Greeks.

In 1859, the brilliant German mathematician Bernard Riemann put forward an idea which finally seemed to reveal a magical harmony at work in the numerical landscape. The promise that these eternal, unchanging numbers would finally reveal their secret thrilled mathematicians around the world. Yet Riemann, a hypochondriac and a troubled perfectionist, never publicly provided a proof for his hypothesis and his housekeeper burnt all his personal papers on his death.

Whoever cracks Riemann's hypothesis will go down in history, for it has implications far beyond mathematics. In business, it is the lynchpin for security and e-commerce. In science, it has critical ramifications in Quantum Mechanics, Chaos Theory, and the future of computing. Pioneers in each of these fields are racing to crack the code and a prize of $1 million has been offered to the winner. As yet, it remains unsolved.

In this breathtaking book, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy tells the story of the eccentric and brilliant men who have struggled to solve one of the biggest mysteries in science. It is a story of strange journeys, last-minute escapes from death and the unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Above all, it is a moving and awe-inspiring evocation of the mathematician's world and the beauties and mysteries it contains.


'Du Sautoy is a contagious enthusiast, a populist with a staunch faith in the public's intelligence…he has uncovered a wealth of intriguing anecdotes that he has woven into a compelling narrative.' Observer

'He laces the ideas with history, anecdote and personalia – an entertaining mix that renders an austere subject palatable…valiant and ingenious…Even those with a mathematical allergy can enjoy du Sautoy's depictions of his cast of characters' The Times

'He brings hugely enjoyable writing, full of zest and passion, to the most fundamental questions in the pursuit of true knowledge.' Sunday Times

'A mesmerising journey into the world of mathematics and its mysteries.' Daily Mail

'A brilliant storyteller.' Independent

About the author

Marcus du Sautoy is a fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and has been named by The Independent on Sunday as one of Britain leading scientists. In 2001 he won the Berwick Prize of The London Mathmatical Society and in 2006 gace the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. His book ‘The Music of the Prmes’ was published in 2003 to widespread acclaim.

From Publishers Weekly

01 May 2003 – The quest to bring advanced math to the masses continues with this engaging but quixotic treatise. The mystery in question is the Riemann Hypothesis, named for the hypochondriac German mathematician Bernard Reimann (1826-66), which ties together imaginary numbers, sine waves and prime numbers in a way that the world's greatest mathematicians have spent 144 years trying to prove. Oxford mathematician and BBC commentator du Sautoy does his best to explain the problem, but stumbles over the fact that the Riemann Hypothesis and its corollaries are just too hard for non-tenured readers to understand. He falls back on the staples of math popularizations by shifting the discussion to easier math concepts, offering thumbnail sketches of other mathematicians and their discoveries, and occasionally overdramatizing the sedentary lives of academics (one is said to be a"benign Robespierre" whose non-commutative geometry"has instilled terror" in his colleagues). But du Sautoy makes the most of these genre conventions. He is a fluent expositor of more tractable mathematics, and his portraits of math notables--like the slipper-shod, self-taught Indian Srinivasa Ramanujan, a mathematical Mozart who languished in chilly Oxford--are quite vivid. His discussion of the Riemann Hypothesis itself, though, can lapse into metaphors ("By combining all these waves, Riemann had an orchestra that played the music of the primes") that are long on sublime atmospherics but short on meaningful explanation. The consequences of the hypothesis--a possible linkage to"quantum chaos," implications for internet data encryption--may seem less than earth-shaking to the lay reader, but for mathematicians, the Riemann Hypothesis may be the"deepest and most fundamental problem" going. 40 illustrations, charts and photos.

Customer Reviews


This is a very good book but DO NOT buy it in this electronic form - it does not include any of the graphs !!
Graphs are essential to illustrate and communicate many of the concepts presented in this book and to read it without seeing the graphs is a very frustrating experience.
I find it amazing, and ridiculous, that with the technology available today, this version is being sold without the graphs!
I am fed up because I have got to page 110 and am already frustrated at not being able to see the graphs which are referred to in the text. Looking ahead I can see that more graphs are referred to, but they are not presented.
Admittedly the sales info does say that it contains limited illustrations - but don't fall for this, it doesn't contain any (unless you consider a table to be an illustration).
I will now have to order a hard copy version and will look more carefully at what I am buying in the future.

The Music of the Primes
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  • £5.49
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Science & Nature
  • Published: 06 September 2004
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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