Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Love and Math by Edward Frenkel
The author is a professional mathematician and describes what it means to do mathematical research. There are some real gems in this book such as:
Which functions (Euler phi function) are used to encrypt credit card numbers.
Which is larger 2/3 or 3/5 – Most people know that 2 bottles of vodka for 3 people is better than 3 bottles for 5 people.
How we can obtain the Fibonacci sequence from its generating function.
What does a finite field mean.
There is also a good explanation of the Langlands Program.
Very few typos (the only two I picked up were both on page 85 - should be divisible not visible and penultimate paragraph should start with ‘As we’.)
It is really pleasing to see that the author does not shy away from the mathematics in his writing.
However this is not a book for the layman because the mathematics is totally inaccessible to the general audience. This is not a piece of writing for a popular audience as I mistakenly believed it was after reading a review before purchasing. To fully appreciate this book you should at least be an undergraduate in mathematics or physics as it is tough going in places.
Throughout the book the author has highlighted his personal struggles of being Jewish with the regime of the Soviet Union. This is really interesting as I was unaware of how the regime thought of all Jews as opponents, criminals, foes (these are my words). When depicting this the author mentions a number of locations in Russia which he should have illustrated with maps as most of us in the West will not be able to visualize the locations.
Additionally I have a few minor quibbles:
There are a number of terms omitted from the glossary such as invariant, winding number.
Should have explained the term monodromy through illustrations.
The author claims ‘It is customary to exclude 1 from this list” (of primes). I always thought of 1 as neither prime nor composite, just a unit.
I conclude that this is not a book for the layman.

Kuldeep Singh 15th April 2015