My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos

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( su 389 valutazioni fornite da Goodreads )
 
9780684846354: My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos

A compelling portrait of the eccentric mathematical wayfarer, Paul Erds.

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Review:

Physicist and science writer Bruce Schechter's biography of legendary Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdös is an engaging portrait, warm and intimate, bringing this strange, happy man to life. Schechter's focus is quite a bit tighter, and more traditionally biographical, than Paul Hoffman's in The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. Here, we get to see Erdös's brief childhood transform quickly into a carefree adolescence of solving difficult math problems with his circle of brilliant friends--uniquely encouraged by a country that valued the contributions of mathematics in a way that has never been equaled. Fleeing the Holocaust, Erdös never settled down, instead traveling from place to place, showing up on the doorsteps of other mathematicians with his few possessions and an open mind. During his career, Erdös published more papers than any other mathematician in history. Most of the papers were collaborations:

For Erdös, the mathematics that consumed most of his waking hours was not a solitary pursuit but a social activity. One of the great mathematical discoveries of the twentieth century was the simple equation that two heads are better than one.... That radical transformation of how mathematics is created is the result of many factors, not the least of which was the infectious example set by Erdös.

Schechter spoke with many of Erdös's collaborators to complete this biography, which reveals the odd mathematician as charming, opinionated, and completely dependent upon the kindness of others. Schechter not only tells his fascinating story, but introduces some intriguing mathematics problems (with easy-to-understand explanations) to show readers why Erdös loved the elegance of numbers more than anything else in the world. --Therese Littleton

From the Publisher:

A pleasing biography of the mathematician . . . by physicist, editor, and journalist Schechter. Erdos took part in the flowering of Hungarian creative and intellectual talent that developed in the first decades of this century with von Neumann, Teller, Szilard, von Karman, and Wigner in science, and Solti, Szell, Reiner, Dorati, Bartok, and Kodaly in music. His parents, nonpracticing Jews, were both high school teachers. At four, Erdos was already in love with numbers and at home with performing rapid calculations. When asked, "What is 100 minus 250?" he thought for a moment, and then shouted "150 below zero!," thereby inventing negative numbers for himself. And it was the theory of numbers that remained the first love of his mathematical life. What makes this biography so amenable to the general reader is that many conjectures raised by number theorists are also grasped easily by nonspecialists. Schechter reconstructs Erds's life through interviews and memoirs of his friends, most importantly , Ronald Graham, the AT&T mathematician who became Erdos's "handler" after his adored and adoring mother's death. Indeed, therein lies a tale to titillate Freudians. It is said that Erdos had never buttered his own bread before leaving home for Cambridge. He chose not to marry and professed to be appalled by sex. Yet he loved children, whom he called "epsilons" (a math insider's joke) and was rich in friendships. Erdos left Hungary before WWII, never won a permanent teaching post, was usually short of mon ey, and got into trouble during the McCarthy era, but was undaunted and eventually cleared. Not only did he advance number theory and create new specialties in mathematics, but he also shifted math's working style from that of a solo enterprise to joint a nd multiple collaborations. Schechter has mined his sources well to create a captivating portrait.

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