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Princeton University Press

Mathematics Without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation

Mathematics Without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation

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An insightful reflection on the mathematical soul

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 Khayy m 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.

Author: Michael Harris
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 01/18/2015
Pages: 464
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.70lbs
Size: 9.50h x 6.40w x 1.30d
ISBN: 9780691154237

Review Citation(s):
Library Journal 01/01/2015 pg. 130
Choice 07/01/2015
New York Times Book Review 12/03/2015 pg. 50

About the Author
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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