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...
  • BlackOxford
    Gift or Neurosis?Obsession is something with irresistible psychic power. I take Derbyshire’s use of the term literally. Explaining this power is like explaining any other mental abnormality. From the outside, obsession appears irrational. From the inside its logic is compelling and justifies itself entirely. But only because some unstated fundamental premise is where the logic starts. This is the only really interesting thing about obsession; e...
  • 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 attempt (with lots of history and sociology) 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. i...
  • 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.
  • Kevin Morgan
    I really enjoyed this book, but you have to take your time and work the math (which starts at really easy stuff, and is very carefully explained). You'll never look at prime number, or mathematics for that matter, in the same way again. -kevin aka FitOldDog
  • Bert Temminck
    I know that in I never will fully understand the Riemann Hypothesis, not enough math cells in my brain, but this book have let me get a glimpse of the beauty of the zeta function.
  • Scott Morrison
    WOuld have got 5, although I found the history chapters less interesting than the maths chapters. Definitely requires undergrad/advanced A level maths to follow but I really enjoyed it.
  • Craig
    Try it. I dare you. (I bet you'll find it more interesting than you thought.)
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Abhishek Dalmia
    A very good explanation of everything related to the Riemann Hypothesis for somebody not exposed to the rigorous maths of advanced level but enough to understand basic Calculus. The best thing about this book is that anybody with high school maths can just dive right in and follow the mathematics without much trouble.The history presented along with the Math at some places is unnecessary but fun none the less.
  • Brannon
    This is a great book to get people interested in the prime number problems the last few thousand years. The first half of the book is very easy to read, and fun. The second half has more difficult mathematics in it.
  • Don
    This book alternates chapters -- biographical information interleaved with mathematical explanations. The biographical was fascinating; the mathematics I followed for about six chapters, then fell away exhausted. Overall, a very good read for those interested in such stuff.
  • Navakanth
    Great book with a historical perspective about the famous Hilbert's problem. A quick, enjoyable read to absorb the beauty of Number theory.
  • Xavier Shay
    I'm such a math wannabe. Does a great job of breaking down a complicated hypothesis. Contained slightly too much people-history for my taste, but overall very good.
  • Cameron Johnson
    Fascinating topic, difficult subject. Will need to re-read!
  • Dr.J.G.
    The book and the style of writing are maddening, especially coming from a professional in the field - as often as not one wishes one could do more than raise eyebrows in a civilised manner and simply bop the fellow one on head, hard. It is bad enough he downplays or speaks degradingly of his professional colleagues in general, although not anyone in particular. He also refuses to provide extremely simple proofs claiming "that way lies madness" th...
  • Tyler
    The author, John Derbyshire, has a wonderful achievement in this book. It is extremely impressive how much he was able to explain for a lay audience about the Riemann Hypothesis. While it is not comprehensive, any close reading of this book will leave the reader with a elementary understanding of the RH, and while that might not sound too impressive, it is a rather mighty feat. This book shows the beauty and excitement that math can have, and it ...
  • Dan Cohen
    This is a really good book. It attempts to explain the Riemann Hypothesis ("RH") to anyone with only "high school" mathematical knowledge, or maybe a little bit more. It also contains a lot of historical material on the mathematicians involved and makes many delightful observations and asides on the way.The book includes a lot of mathematical reasoning. But the author avoids making it a mathematical text-book by simplifying, cheating, and joking ...