Fermat’s enigma by simon Singh

upon recommendation by a friend about what sort of math-related books to read, this was sugested to me.

I am fairly sure I have heard of Fermat’s Last Theorem before and there was a grand memory of my math teacher forcing every student in the class to memorize the pythagoras theorem and i remembered not having it remembered it verbatim and hence had to do it twice.

upon reading the introduction i realized that there is a documentary version of the book! Produced by BBC Horizons, it basically summarizes the book in a neat little 40 minute watchable format. Naturally the lazy must find the lazy way and so I went and found the video (which isn’t hard at all in today’s information highway). I was already quite bit into the book so I felt like I should do it justice by reading it first before watching the documentary but I gave in immediately after.

Andrew Wiles is very modest and shy, as i am sure many mathematicians are. but his passion really was obvious. the first scene in the documentary was him talking about the break through moment that he had after a mistake was found in his original manuscript.

after watching the documentary there were a few things that couldn’t fully be comprehended by a math novice like myself upon the first try.
and so i went back and finished the book and i am glad i did because i understand the process in getting to the proof as well as numerous major figures in math since the era of Pythagoras.

The book is well written and well researched, lots of anecdotes about math are scattered through its pages. each of the historical figure that was presented was not presented in vain as each of them made some impact in the eventual proof that andrew wiles came up with.

i also learned a bit about modular forms, elliptical, the taniyama-shimura conjecture and really how math on a number theory level worked.

it’s a fun read and you learn a lot. the math won’t bog you down along the way and some of the questions were pretty fun.

even though they talked about working this or working that i have no idea what any of the complicated symbols mean and i think i’ll never be able to really understand it. i can’t imagine what they mean by changing a certain formula or conjecture to PROVE something like a mathematical conjecture or something like a modular form that can’t really be seen or explained.

math is amazing
and math is certainly romantic

A !

edit: i remembered this amazing part in the book where it talks about the discouragement of women in the mathematical studies (and how a few women risked much to over come it)

but this part was funny

to this end a series of textbooks were written to help young women come to grips with the latest developments in mathematics and science. franceso algarotti was the author of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy Explain’d for the Use of Ladies because Algarotti believe that women were interested only in romance, he attempted to explain Newton’s discoveries through the flirtatious dialogue between a Marquis and her interlocutor. For example, the interlocutor outlines the inverse square law of gravitational attraction, whereupon the Marquise gives her own interpretation on this fundamental law of physics: “I cannot help thinking … that this proportion in the squares of the distances of places … is observed even in love. Thus after eight days’ absence love becomes sixty-four times less than it was the firsty.”

Posted: February 24th, 2012
Categories: BOOKS
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