The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers

Penguin UK
3
Free sample

Why was the number of Hardy's taxi significant? Why does Graham's number need its own notation? How many grains of sand would fill the universe? What is the connection between the Golden Ratio and sunflowers? Why is 999 more than a distress call? All these questions and a host more are answered in this fascinating book, which has now been newly revised, with nearly 200 extra entries and some 250 additions to the original entries. From minus one and its square root, via cyclic, weird, amicable, perfect, untouchable and lucky numbers, aliquot sequences, the Cattle problem, Pascal's triangle and the Syracuse algorithm, music, magic and maps, pancakes, polyhedra and palindromes, to numbers so large that they boggle the imagination, all you ever wanted to know about numbers is here. There is even a comprehensive index for those annoying occasions when you remember the name but can't recall the number.
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About the author

DAVID WELLS has written extensively on problems and popular mathematics, and many of his titles are available in Penguin. He is involved in education through writing and research, and lives in this country.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin UK
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Published on
Sep 4, 1997
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780141929408
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / General
Mathematics / Reference
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In August 1859 Bernhard Riemann, a little-known 32-year old mathematician, presented a paper to the Berlin Academy titled: "On the Number of Prime Numbers Less Than a Given Quantity." In the middle of that paper, Riemann made an incidental remark â€" a guess, a hypothesis. What he tossed out to the assembled mathematicians that day has proven to be almost cruelly compelling to countless scholars in the ensuing years. Today, after 150 years of careful research and exhaustive study, the question remains. Is the hypothesis true or false?

Riemann's basic inquiry, the primary topic of his paper, concerned a straightforward but nevertheless important matter of arithmetic â€" defining a precise formula to track and identify the occurrence of prime numbers. But it is that incidental remark â€" the Riemann Hypothesis â€" that is the truly astonishing legacy of his 1859 paper. Because Riemann was able to see beyond the pattern of the primes to discern traces of something mysterious and mathematically elegant shrouded in the shadows â€" subtle variations in the distribution of those prime numbers. Brilliant for its clarity, astounding for its potential consequences, the Hypothesis took on enormous importance in mathematics. Indeed, the successful solution to this puzzle would herald a revolution in prime number theory. Proving or disproving it became the greatest challenge of the age.

It has become clear that the Riemann Hypothesis, whose resolution seems to hang tantalizingly just beyond our grasp, holds the key to a variety of scientific and mathematical investigations. The making and breaking of modern codes, which depend on the properties of the prime numbers, have roots in the Hypothesis. In a series of extraordinary developments during the 1970s, it emerged that even the physics of the atomic nucleus is connected in ways not yet fully understood to this strange conundrum. Hunting down the solution to the Riemann Hypothesis has become an obsession for many â€" the veritable "great white whale" of mathematical research. Yet despite determined efforts by generations of mathematicians, the Riemann Hypothesis defies resolution.

Alternating passages of extraordinarily lucid mathematical exposition with chapters of elegantly composed biography and history, Prime Obsession is a fascinating and fluent account of an epic mathematical mystery that continues to challenge and excite the world. Posited a century and a half ago, the Riemann Hypothesis is an intellectual feast for the cognoscenti and the curious alike. Not just a story of numbers and calculations, Prime Obsession is the engrossing tale of a relentless hunt for an elusive proof â€" and those who have been consumed by it.
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