Marco's Blog

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The Man Who Loved Only Numbers (P. Hoffman)

2003-10-04 1 min read Books marco

Admittedly, the life of a mathematician doesn’t quite make a likely beach reading. I was surprised by myself as I packed it in my backpack on the way to Kona, but surely do not regret it.
Mathematicians, as the book quotes, are all a bit out of their mind. Their make wonderfully eccentric characters that charm you even where the subject matter of their work bores you. That was the case with Alan Turing (Enigma), John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), and a lot of other mathematicians.
This book is about Paul Erdos (pronounced ‘Erdish’ much to my surprise) and his vagaries in number theory. Somehow number theory has become an immensely boring branch of mathematics, where the weapons at hand are so much bigger than the problems that you wonder why you would want to enter the field.
Paul Hoffmann loves Erdos the way only we lesser intellects can love those we would adore if we actually had met them. It is wonderful to feel with him how he goes through all the details of the eccentricity, but still has to admit this was a more than brilliant person. What a marvel!