Sabbagh: The Riemann Hypothesis
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Karl Sabbagh, The Riemann Hypothesis : The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002. 340 pages; illustrated; includes bibliographical references and index.
The Riemann Hypothesis is one of the most famous unproved theories in mathematics. It deals with a lot of higher mathematics that most people never look at. In the 1800s a German mathematician, Bernhard Riemann, wrote an 8-page paper on his theory that all the zeros of a certain zeta function fall on the same line. Mathematicians have spent lifetimes attempting to prove this hypothesis, but thus far it has eluded them all. I spoke with a teacher of mathematics I know who believes it isn't worth getting involved in the Riemann Hypothesis -- he views it as essentially impossible to prove. This view sums up a large set of people in the mathematics community, but some still work to prove this famous theory.
In his book, Sabbagh attempts to explain to the layman what exactly this hypothesis is and why it's significant. He writes about the people still working towards a proof after 160 years and the methods they use. It took a long time to make it through this book: not because Sabbagh was unclear, but because the concepts were difficult and I had to go back sometimes to reread the more technical passages. Although it was difficult, I found this an exceptionally interesting read. It was very informative and yet still understandable.
-- Notes by RSPH