What if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren't even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.
In Love and Math, renowned mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we've never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate audiobook, Frenkel shows that mathematics, far from occupying a specialist niche, goes to the heart of all matter, uniting us across cultures, time, and space.
Love and Math tells two intertwined stories: of the wonders of mathematics and of one young man's journey learning and living it. Having braved a discriminatory educational system to become one of the twenty-first century's leading mathematicians, Frenkel now works on one of the biggest ideas to come out of math in the last 50 years: the Langlands Program.
Considered by many to be a Grand Unified Theory of mathematics, the Langlands Program enables researchers to translate findings from one field to another so that they can solve problems, such as Fermat's last theorem, that had seemed intractable before. At its core, Love and Math is a story about accessing a new way of thinking, which can enrich our lives and empower us to better understand the world and our place in it. It is an invitation to discover the magic hidden universe of mathematics.
©2013 Edward Frankel (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC
"Informative, but not at all what I expected."
First, let me state that I am not a mathematics novice. I am reasonably familiar with most of the concepts, at least broadly, that are discussed in this book.
This book starts out with a very exciting premise, that mathematics need not be daunting and that one can even fall in love with mathematics. I tutor kids part time and that notion is something that I desperately want to be able to teach better. Misleadingly, this book approaches the joy of maths in the form of mathematical memoirs of a mathematician written for mathematicians (as confusing as that sounds). Beyond the introduction, this book dives head first into the Langlands Program, braided forms, higher order polynomials, symmetry and other advanced concepts.
The discussion is at a good pace and concisely written. I found it very interesting and from the educational vantage point that I occupy, I got a lot out of it.
While the author takes great pains to make the language accessible to all, the concepts discussed quickly and unapologetically fall far outside the reach of the majority of the general public, and in my opinion, fails in all aspects of the suggested aim to inspire the uninitiated to find love in math.
"A book that probably loses from being read aloud"
Best was the personal story of the author's personal triumph over prejudice in Moscow. Despite horrible anti-semitism, he was able to escape to America and be, at least in his own estimation (with apparent plausibility) a well regarded academic mathematician.
The unfolding mathematical story, as well as personal one, appeared to have the potential to be fascinating. But given it is pitched at a general audience who are not trained in maths, it failed in explaining itself. Given that part of the author's argument (at least expressed in other forums than this book) is that the school curriculum being too slow to take up the progress in mathematics over the last couple of centuries, and that it has the potential to be fascinating, this is a serious failure. The way the mathematical advances are presented in this book, if it is thought by a serious mathematician to be presented for an intelligent lay audience, strains the believability of the proposition that such mathematics can ever be generally accessible.
Having only listened to the audio book, I do, however, wonder whether this is caused by having to listen to mathematical formulas rather than read them. The words or numbers and symbols on the page of a book, may be more accessible. A possibility is that I have a visually dominant input so that aural input is more difficult. But I found it very difficult to keep the boringly read formulas in my head long enough to work out whether they presented an argument. (Of course, I accept that they did, just that it bypassed me completely) I also supposed that the book must have contained illustrations which are not referred to at all in the auditory text. I suspect if you had the written material in front of you you could at least stop and look at it and read it several times and reason mathematically a little bit about it so it would be more likely to stay in one's head for the next part of the argument.
Possibly this was exacerbated by the reader who seemed not to have a very good ability to give emphasis and nuance to what he was reading. There were several times where
I felt I picked up a lot of mathematical jargon - fields, groups, sets, braids, loops, Galois things, Lie algebra, Langlands program, Weill's rosetta stone, vector spaces, legrangians, Katz-Moody algebras - I'm not sure how to spell all these at is all auditory. But I really can't say that any of this terminology has any meaning to me.
The experience was really just like watching the news in Chinese, with English commentary interspersed to provide historical updates. Unless you speak a bit of Chinese, you wouldn't get it. It was the same here, you need to be pretty knowledgeable about maths to understand the importance of the maths presented.
Perhaps this is just my lack of education in higher mathematics - but that was why i thought I'd be interested to read the book - to gain some general conception of what modern mathematics is really about. I failed. Perhaps it's just me.
Despite these significant shortcomings, the book was interesting and I learnt a tiny shadowy amount of what goes on in that foreign land.
"Answers tough questions, but not for all listeners"
I enjoyed the book, but would be hard pressed to recommend it since he does explain all the details that goes into the relevant math and the listener can get lost within the weeds of the math. I did not know this branch of mathematics and was able to follow the details, but sometimes it did get overwhelming.
Math is beautiful. Behind our current different branches of abstract math there exist an ultimate theory that ties each branch together. This book explains all of this by delving into the mathematical details and stepping the listener through many abstract math concepts.
The author tells an exciting story. The description of the fundamental particles of nature are said to be described by the "eight fold path". I've often wondered what that meant. The book starts by explaining what it means to be symmetrical and how we can transform objects into mathematically equivalent systems. This leads to Evariste Galois the greatest mathematician who you probably never have heard of. On the night before he died in a duel, he connected number theory to geometry by considering the relationship of certain groups (Galois Groups) with their fields and some symmetries in order to solve quintic equations (fifth degree polynomials). Once again, I had often wondered about what was so special about solving fifth degree polynomials. The book steps me through that.
The ultimate theory of math tries to show the correspondences between different diverse areas of abstract math and then the author ties this to QED and string theory. He'll even explain what SU3 means in the standard model by analogy with constructing SO3 spaces (standard 3 dimensional ordinate systems). He'll step you through the vector spaces, function theory, and metric spaces and the functions of the metric space (sheaves) that you'll need to understand what it all means.
He really does tie all the concepts together and explains them as he presents them. You'll understand why string theorist think there could be 10 to the 500 different possible universes and so on.
Just so that any reader of this review fully understands, this is a very difficult book, and should only be listened to by someone who has wondered about some of the following topics, the meaning of the "eight fold path", the SU3 construction, and why Galois is relevant to today's physics, tying of math branches and physics together, and other just as intriguing ideas. I had, and he answers these by getting in the weeds and never talking down to the listener, but I'm guessing the typical reader hasn't wondered these topics and this book will not be as entertaining to them and might be hard to follow.
P.S. A book like this really highlights while I like audible so much. If I had read the book instead of listening to it, it would have taken me eight hours per most pages because I would have had to understand everything before preceding, but by listening I have to not dwell on a page. Another thing, the author really missed a great opportunity by making the book too complex, because he has a great math story to tell and he could have made easier analogies and talked around the jargon better.
"Quite possibly the best book I've ever read"
As a math major I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it filled me with joy, pride, humility, and ambition. I am now more certain than I've ever been that I was born to do mathematics.
"A little too complex for "normal" people"
I bought the audiobook and the Kindle book, but I found it too difficult to follow the information on the audio, as it always refers to numbers, symbols and equations. The information was worth reading, so I could get an overview on what a “mathematician world” is like. The information is way too complex to understand, at least for me who does not have any mathematical background.
"FermaT? Euler?"
The narrator should have been more diligent in researching how to pronounce names of famous mathematicians
"Made me want to be a mathematician!"
If you like math, this book will captivate you. The story alternates between his personal history (fascinating) of desperately wanting to practice pure mathematics in a Soviet Russia that only allowed Jews to pursue certain careers and mathematical explanations (most far, far over my head) of some of the mind-blowing connections found by mathematicians and physicists between seemingly unrelated disciplines in a collaborative research initiative called the Langlands program. It is now a life goal to be able to understand enough of the mathematics to listen to this again in a couple of years and have most of the math parts make sense.
"Interesting because it entices one to ponder"
It is a great book because it outlines Frenkel's development and career while keeping the listener in the moments of his development, naive of what is to come, as Frenkel experienced it. One draw back is the audio sections in which the recorded performer must read the formulas and expressions that are superscript and subscript heavy, but I suppose if one wanted to develop ones ability to comprehend complex information via only an auditory delivery, then this is an great challenge; I could not do it, but the upside is that I'm so intrigued to want to understand the content, that I will likely purchase the hardcopy to have to visual opportunity to digest the mathematical formulas.
"highly recommended"
It has surprised me how easy it is to understand this book even when talking about complex mathematical topics. Still I recommend reading more than one.
The book is also reflected the life of a mathematician; study, motivate. makes through the tribulations, memories and anecdotes of the live of the writer.
It is a book that has funny anecdotes, I really enjoyed
"A Bit of Modern Math"
One hopes the author's sense of math proportion is better than his sense of self importance. The book is offered as one focussed on modern math but three quarters seem to be about him. Nevertheless that one quarter is informative and valuable.
"Math Texts on Audible Are Hard"
I have an MS in Mathematics so I have a better background than most. This book was my first try to listen to a math-oriented text. I probably would not do so again, and it's not really Audible's fault.
The part of the listen that works really well are the chapters about the mathematician's life. I originally thought that this part would be quite dull, but it turned out to be the most interesting. Growing up Jewish in the Soviet Union and trying to make it with the mathematical elite came with shocking discrimination. And personal stories about academia in the latter half of the 20th century are surprisingly entertaining (at least it should be for those with a strong interest in the field.)
The listen fails, however, during the math-heavy parts of the text. It's just much more difficult to comprehend the material without the equations right in front of you. It's also rather jarring when the narrator keeps saying "subscript" and "superscript" to denote subs and powers and it takes considerably longer. Anyone who has taken higher level math classes knows that this is not the norm.
The math itself is actually super-interesting and I would consider reading the math chapters in their entirety. It takes the foundation of Group Theory and evolves into the Langlands Program and 21st century mathematics, which if you're like most people, is a mystery. There are also nice concluding chapters about the author's work with film to try and bring math to a larger audience.
So great material in here, but without the text/equations in front of you, you're going to be missing out. And please, Audible, if you're going to hire people to read math texts, make sure they know the jargon.
"Bit of a mixed bag - don't get audiobook"
He clearly didn't understand a lot of what he was reading - it's quite heavy maths in places, and it was impossible to understand. Also, just not getting the concepts of what he was saying meant he sometimes put the emphasis in strange places making it so hard to follow. Not great.
Argh, finally finished this book. Unsurprisingly, it does not work as an audiobook. Do not buy it from Audible.
I think when I got it, I believed it was more of a book about mathematicians or a fictionalised autobiography, than a book about maths. It's sort of both, but there is a fair amount of actual maths (and significantly advanced maths, at that). And that's just impossible to make sense of while listening. Particularly as the narrator, Tony Craine, clearly has absolutely no idea what he is saying, so his emphasis is often totally off, or he reads things in a way that doesn't distinguish where brackets would be, so it's just impossible to follow no matter how hard you listen - there's not enough information conveyed.
The story itself I really enjoyed - it was a fascinating account of education and anti-semitism in Soviet Russia, as well as great insight into the lives of professional mathematicians. I did a maths degree so I can't comment on how it would come across to the layman, but I found the actual maths a bit hard-going and uninteresting - these are difficult, complicated concepts that weren't very interesting when you can't get into either the nitty-gritty or appreciate the broader concepts.
A bit of a mixed bag. Quite enjoyable in parts, but I'm glad to be done. Don't get the audiobook.
"Wauw. Math made beautiful and simple"
Really loved this book. I have always been intrigued with math and it's possibilities but never got further than basic functions. Thanks to Edward frenkel I now dare to dream that I might do more with math than before.
The story is inspiring and gripping. The narrator is doing a great job: there are various equations mentioned which I imagine makes narrating a bit tricky but with a book on math quite unavoidable. His voice is pleasant and very suited for this book.
In short: this book rekindled my love for math. Thank you Edward.