For 150 years the Riemann hypothesis has been the holy grail of mathematics. Now, at a moment when mathematicians are finally moving in on a proof, Dartmouth professor Dan Rockmore tells the riveting history of the hunt for a solution.In 1859 German professor Bernhard Riemann postulated a law capable of describing with an amazing degree of accuracy the occurrence of the prime numbers. Rockmore takes us all the way from Euclid to the mysteries of quantum chaos to show how the Riemann hypothesis lies at the very heart of some of the most cutting-edge research going on today in physics and mathematics.
Now that Fermat's famous last theorem has been solved, the greatest unsolved math problem is the Riemann hypothesis, which concerns the distribution of prime numbers. After the announcement of a $1-million prize for its solution in 2000, three popular books on the hypothesis appeared in 2003, of which the best is John Derbyshire's Prime Obsession (because, contrary to conventional publishing wisdom, it gives the mathematics necessary to understanding the problem). Unfortunately, unlike Fermat's last theorem, the Riemann hypothesis is complicated; indeed, it's all but unfathomable to those without a grasp of such difficult concepts as using imaginary numbers as exponents. Dartmouth math professor Rockmore writes elegantly and makes ample use of analogy, but because he avoids equations, including the zeta function that's an essential component of the hypothesis, he can really talk only around the subject. Compared to his predecessors, Rockmore moves quickly through the history and focuses on more recent approaches to tackling the problem. Still, for all the author's earnest efforts to explain such terms as eigenvalues and Hermitian matrices, most lay readers will be left scratching their heads.