Mathematics without apologies : portrait of a problematic vocation / Michael Harris.

By: Harris, Michael, 1954- [author.]Material type: TextTextSeries: JSTOR eBooksPublisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, [2015]Copyright date: ©2015Description: 1 online resource (xxii, 438 pages) : illustrationsContent type: text Media type: computer Carrier type: online resourceISBN: 9781400852024; 1400852021; 1400885523; 9781400885527; 9781322588490; 132258849XSubject(s): Mathematicians | Mathematics -- Social aspectsAdditional physical formats: Print version:: Mathematics without apologies.DDC classification: 510.922 LOC classification: QA28 | .H37 2015Online resources: Click here to view this ebook. Summary: What do pure mathematicians do, and why do they do it? Looking beyond the conventional answers-for the sake of truth, beauty, and practical applications-this book offers an eclectic panorama of the lives and values and hopes and fears of mathematicians in the twenty-first century, assembling material from a startlingly diverse assortment of scholarly, journalistic, and pop culture sources. Drawing on his personal experiences and obsessions as well as the thoughts and opinions of mathematicians from Archimedes and Omar Khayyám to such contemporary giants as Alexander Grothendieck and Robert Langlands, Michael Harris reveals the charisma and romance of mathematics as well as its darker side. In this portrait of mathematics as a community united around a set of common intellectual, ethical, and existential challenges, he touches on a wide variety of questions, such as: Are mathematicians to blame for the 2008 financial crisis? How can we talk about the ideas we were born too soon to understand? And how should you react if you are asked to explain number theory at a dinner party? Disarmingly candid, relentlessly intelligent, and richly entertaining, Mathematics without Apologies takes readers on an unapologetic guided tour of the mathematical life, from the philosophy and sociology of mathematics to its reflections in film and popular music, with detours through the mathematical and mystical traditions of Russia, India, medieval Islam, the Bronx, and beyond.
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Includes bibliographical references (pages 397-421) and indexes.

Print version record.

What do pure mathematicians do, and why do they do it? Looking beyond the conventional answers-for the sake of truth, beauty, and practical applications-this book offers an eclectic panorama of the lives and values and hopes and fears of mathematicians in the twenty-first century, assembling material from a startlingly diverse assortment of scholarly, journalistic, and pop culture sources. Drawing on his personal experiences and obsessions as well as the thoughts and opinions of mathematicians from Archimedes and Omar Khayyám to such contemporary giants as Alexander Grothendieck and Robert Langlands, Michael Harris reveals the charisma and romance of mathematics as well as its darker side. In this portrait of mathematics as a community united around a set of common intellectual, ethical, and existential challenges, he touches on a wide variety of questions, such as: Are mathematicians to blame for the 2008 financial crisis? How can we talk about the ideas we were born too soon to understand? And how should you react if you are asked to explain number theory at a dinner party? Disarmingly candid, relentlessly intelligent, and richly entertaining, Mathematics without Apologies takes readers on an unapologetic guided tour of the mathematical life, from the philosophy and sociology of mathematics to its reflections in film and popular music, with detours through the mathematical and mystical traditions of Russia, India, medieval Islam, the Bronx, and beyond.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Harris (mathematics, Univ. of Diderot and Columbia Univ.) is the kind of mathematician one hopes to meet at an intimate dinner party. By sharing his professional and personal relationship to mathematics, the author links art, philosophy, music, and literature to academic culture and research problems. He mostly succeeds in his premise that finding answers to mathematical questions requires thinking about how the science can be expressed in other ways. This comparison is the heart of the book, and each example is best enjoyed individually. Similar titles approaching problem solving from other perspectives include Douglas F. Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach and Metamagical Themas. Those looking for a more historical organization of ideas might enjoy Stewart Shapiro's Thinking About Mathematics. VERDICT Recommended for curious readers in any subject wishing to answer problems in creative ways.-Elizabeth A. Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

This extraordinary, extravagant Apologia pro Vita Sua--the title more deliberately echoes G. H. Hardy's renowned 1940 memoir A Mathematician's Apology--heads off in many directions and is all the more admirable for it. The book is part memoir, part account of the arcane research that brought number theorist Harris (Univ. Paris Diderot; Columbia Univ.) a measure of fame, and part sociological/economic study of academic mathematics. Together with interspersed chapters amusingly titled "How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party," the work offers erudition, panache, and an intriguing authorial voice. It even contains a deconstruction of the Thomas Pynchon novel Against the Day (2006) combined with reproaches to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books for assigning reviewers who boasted their mathematical ignorance! Another digression, labeled "mind-body problem," is an analysis--not always easy to follow--of the celebrated Mishima-influenced erotic film short Rites of Love and Math, by mathematician Edward Frenkel (Univ. of California, Berkeley). Harris is polyglot, deeply learned. Threading through his remarkable book, unifying it, is Hardy's lament regarding whether a pure mathematician can make a claim that the vocation has a philosophically "useful" purpose. Harris's reply is multivalent, persuasive, and profound. A book to be read and then read again. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. --Mortimer Schiff, CUNY College of Staten Island

Author notes provided by Syndetics

HarrisMichael:

Michael Harris is professor of mathematics at the Université Paris Diderot and Columbia University. He is the author or coauthor of more than seventy mathematical books and articles, and has received a number of prizes, including the Clay Research Award, which he shared in 2007 with Richard Taylor.

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