Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire

Prime Obsession

In 1859, Bernhard Riemann, a little-known thirty-two year old mathematician, made a hypothesis while presenting a paper to the Berlin Academy titled “On the Number of Prime Numbers Less Than a Given Quantity.” Today, after 150 years of careful research and exhaustive study, the Riemann Hypothesis remains unsolved, with a one-million-dollar prize earmarked for the first person to conquer it. Alternating passages of extraordinarily lucid math...

Details Prime Obsession

TitlePrime Obsession
Release DateJan 1st, 1970
GenreScience, Mathematics, Nonfiction, History, Biography

Reviews Prime Obsession

  • Manny
    The best popular mathematics book I can recall reading. I had heard about the Riemann Hypothesis a zillion times and never understood what the fuss was about. After going through this book, it all made sense! Requires college-level math, but if you have that, can't recommend too highly. ______________________________An anecdote from Lambert's biography of Georges Lemaître which may amuse mathematicians. At one stage, young Lemaître was being su...
  • Jason
    You remember the smartest kid in your high school calculus class? Remember the math major in your college dorm, the one doing advanced physics with more Greek symbols than Roman numerals? Both brainiacs at the time, right? Well, the book Prime Obsession deals with mathematical concepts magnitudes of order more complex than those brainiacs could ever wish to comprehend. John Derbyshire describes the Riemann Hypothesis (RH) and the mathematical tit...
  • Jonathan Chuang
    First of all, this is pretty well-researched, being a 150 year-long history and all. Also, while quite thorough about the math, it wasn't really that involved. Of course, like all attempts to give a popular account of complicated math, it tread too heavily while not penetrating deep enough. So I was a bit disappointed. I gave it five stars because despite this, it was a real page turner. The prose is light and clear, and the pace is good. Reminds...
  • Sanjay Gautam
    I read the book somewhere, i don't remember on whose laptop, but I was more than halfway through and the book made me feel really great. Its a very well written book. You need not to know much mathematics to start reading it, he teaches you along the way. And then he takes you from history to rigorous mathematics and that's awesome.Certainly its one of the books out there in world - to enlighten!
  • Andrij Zip
    Prime Obsession is an engrossing and mind stretching journey to the heart of one of the most enduring and profound mysteries in mathematics - the Riemann Hypothesis:All non-trivial zeros of the zeta function have real part one-half.By the time you finish the book, that enigmatic statement along with the math behind it will make sense,you will have a deep understanding of the significance of TRH (namely how it is connected to the distribution of p...
  • Ami Iida
    It's the Riemann hypothesis and the process of it. It can't be solved yet 30 January 2018. But the process of it is used various new mathematical method, they're exciting.
  • trivialchemy
    This comparison will probably strike most as directly from left field, but Derbyshire reminds me a lot of Jon Krakauer. Topically, of course, they have nothing in common. But their style both depends heavily on the conspicuousness of the author in the narrative. This isn't necessarily because Krakauer and Derbyshire are narcissistic or self-absorbed, but that their writing is very self-conscious and they feel a continual impetus to advise the rea...
  • Raghu
    Stoic and engaging (with lots of history and sociology) attempt to take one all the way through (almost from first principles) to understanding the near-mythical Riemann Hypothesis (RH). The most revelatory aspect of this exercise, to me, was the fact that even as a practicing applied mathematician (engineer) my knowledge of academic mathematics ends somewhere in the 18th century. Even the mathematics of Riemann from the middle of the 19th c. is ...
  • Elio
    Although I find this author's political views repellent, I really enjoyed this book. He takes an extremely esoteric mathematical puzzle and shows how it emerges organically starting from the simple math we learned in high school. He also provides several excellent character sketches of famous mathematicians who made the key discoveries that allowed the Riemann Hypothesis to come into being in the first place. Most importantly, Derbyshire manages ...
  • Ollie Ford
    Really nice mix of mathematical content and the historical story.Seemed somewhat as though an editor favouring a lower page count rushed a dump of all remaining explanation in the last couple of chapters - dramatic increase in pace. Toward the end there are some odd mixes of assumed knowledge too.
  • Steve Kimmins
    If you are interested in mathematics in general, enjoy recreational mathematics or have even a curiosity and affinity for numbers then I think you’ll enjoy this book. It’s ‘popular’, in that it’s aimed at non specialists but there are minimum requirements for you to make the most of it. I think in the UK you probably need advanced level maths, or in the US have included some calculus at high school or early college. My background is the...
  • Greg Fanoe
    I think this is the best pop science book I've ever read. For me, having been a math major in college but not studied or dealt with any high level math in probably around 15 years, it was pitched at a pretty good level. Most importantly, you can tell this was actually written by a professional mathematician rather than by a writer who is just dabbling. There's a lot of handwaving around high level calculus but he explains what he's handwaving awa...
  • Kelly Novak
    As someone interested in (and fascinated with) the Riemann zeta function and the Riemann Hypothesis, I read a lot of books on the matter. Many are far too full of dense equations and seem geared to those with a math Ph.D. This one, however, can be understood by an undergraduate with a few math courses completed.He starts with the basics and slowly shows how the zeta function can be calculated with only prime numbers, shows how analytic continuati...
  • Shayne
    Really raises the bar for pop-math books. My only complaint is that the educational level of the intended reader is somewhat bizarre. On the one hand, only the very minimum amount of calculus is provided to keep the concepts approachable. On the other hand, towards the end of the book Derbyshire writes tangentially about things like p-adic numbers which I didn't encounter until my senior-level number theory class. Part of me wishes he'd dropped t...
  • Riccardo
    a capitoli alternati, uno di storia pura e uno di divulgazione matematica, Derbyshire ripercorre passo dopo passo la storia di Riemann, della sua tesi e di quello che �� forse il pi�� grande problema matematico ancora aperto ai giorni nostri. Proprio per la sua particolare struttura, un libro amabile sia da chi non vuole vedere matematica che non sia 2+2, sia da chi gli unici numeri che vuole vedere sono quelli delle formule, sia da chi i...
  • Katia N
    Wonderful book for those who are interested in the subject and the modern math in general. The author has made his task very challengeable - to explain high level abstract math to a layman almost without even using calculus. And i have to say he succeeded! On the top of knowing the subject he is great storyteller. I wish I would have such a teacher for the Calculus when i was at the University;-)It is not for everyone, but of you are seriously fa...
  • David Tate
    This may be my favorite nonfiction mathematics book. The author alternates between biographical information on the main players in the history of the Riemann Hypothesis, and mathematical development of the background necessary to understand the hypothesis and its importance to modern mathematics. He manages to do this without requiring any advanced mathematics from his readers -- even calculus is used only once. Amazing, and well-written to boot.
  • Santino Maguire
    I bought this book thinking it was a biography of Riemann. It's not. Riemann shows up for a little bit at the beginning, but the vast majority of this book is not about him. Fair enough, allegedly he kept no diary and made no friends, so there's very little known about him. But the title is exceptionally misleading.My second concern is "who is the intended audience of this book?" Like, it goes through exceptional trouble to explain natural number...
  • Kevin Roche
    A very thorough, but readable guide to the Riemann hypothesis. This book is divided into Mathematical (odd numbered) and Historical chapters (even numbered) that serve together to give a very thorough layman's study of the hypothesis. The historic chapters introduce the players and mathematical environment in the history of the study of prime numbers that lead to the Riemann hypothesis, and follows on to detail the involvement of those players wh...
  • John Weiler
    Excellent book. I loved how the author alternated between describing the history which affected the Mathematicians (and therefore, the Mathematics) of the time. And, shepherding me through the actual Mathematics associated with the Riemann Hypothesis. Two slight issues. One, occasionally the author would make the steps between the derivations of proofs a little two far for me. (Requiring me to reach for paper and pencil.) And two, his somewhat an...
  • David Snook
    Great mix of math and biography/history, even to the point of alternating chapters dedicated to each perspective. Something feels very symbolic in that pattern, as it showed up prominently in many mathematical sequences, with alternating positive and negative terms. Frankly, I wish the math portion made more sense to me, but alas, it progressed to the point that it was clearly out of my reach. It was tantalizing, though, all the way to the end, a...
  • Myat Thura Aung
    The book is quite fascinating ! But I suspect that maths presented in this book might be quite challenging for a general reader.But as the author asserted, if you cannot understand this book, you may rest assured that you will never understand the Riemann Hypothesis(it's what the book is all about) which states that the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function has the real part 'a half'.(It doesn't sound interesting, right ? Yes, it is.You'...
  • Giedrius Kriščiukaitis
    A remarkable vacation from day-to-day problems in a universe of prime numbers. The author takes you through multiple mathematical riddles and kind of personally introduces you to the greatest minds. Mathematics is perfectly merged with the history in this book both full of context, enough of details and absolute pleasure to read for those who like math.
  • Lenka
    Výborně napsaná kniha, která dává dohromady vysokou matematiku a historický kontext a umožňuje tak doslova každému pochopit krásu a složitost Riemannovy hypotézy. No, každému. Může si ji číst velice zapálený středoškolák, pokud nad ní stráví opravdu hodně času, ale spíš doporučuju aspoň rok či dva přednášek z vysokoškolské matematiky.
  • Marta Minotti
    Meraviglioso! Tra i migliori testi di matematica. Contiene elementi della storia dell’ipotesi di Riemann, aneddoti ma sopratutto molta matematica, non banale ma spiegata in modo impeccabile ed indispensabile per capire, almeno in parte, in cosa consiste la RH.
  • Arun
    Breath taking book that explains the genius of Riemann in a fascinating way. The book alternates between two ambience - Odd number chapters deal with the mathematical stuffs while the even number chapters explores the personal/biographical aspects of Riemann.Very interesting and delightful read.
  • James
    Towering. It toppled me, at least. Readable, yet still very dense. I made it through the majority of the book and had to start skimming at the end. This was not a good bedtime book :). Found myself needing more supplemental ELI5-style material on the RH.
  • Barak
    This is a very lucid introductory book for the Reimann Hypothesis and maths (and its history) in general. I have enjoyed reading it even though most of the mathematical sections went right over my head.
  • Mukesh Kumar
    Much less accessible than Simon Singh's Fermat's Last Theorem, which I enjoyed immensely, still okay. I would have loved this book in my college days, when I was actually dealing with infinite series and some of the sequences refereed here.
  • Jozeee
    I disliked how the author said that if you don’t understand the Riemann Hypothesis after reading the book, you might never get it. I disagree. Trolling Euclid gave a really good and easy to understand explanation of the Riemann Hypothesis in less pages with a lot of math too found in this book. This book doesn’t really give a good explanation of it, instead it spreads it out over the entire book of what the Riemann Hypothesis is, i.e., it lea...