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Mathematics without Apologies

Portrait of a Problematic Vocation

Michael Harris Michael Harris



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Princeton University Press
30 May 2017
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.
Preface by:  
Imprint:   Princeton University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   992g
ISBN:   9780691175836
ISBN 10:   0691175837
Pages:   464
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Preface ix Acknowledgments xix Part 1 Chapter 1. Introduction: The Veil 3 Chapter 2. How I Acquired Charisma 7 Chapter alpha. How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party 41 (First Session: Primes) 43 Chapter 3. Not Merely Good, True, and Beautiful 54 Chapter 4. Megaloprepeia 80 Chapter ss. How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party 109 (Second Session: Equations) 109 Bonus Chapter 5. An Automorphic Reading of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (Interrupted by Elliptical Reflections on Mason & Dixon) 128 Part II 139 Chapter 6. Further Investigations of the Mind-Body Problem 141 Chapter ss.5. How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party 175 (Impromptu Minisession: Transcendental Numbers) 175 Chapter 7. The Habit of Clinging to an Ultimate Ground 181 Chapter 8. The Science of Tricks 222 Part III 257 Chapter gamma. How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party 259 (Third Session: Congruences) 259 Chapter 9. A Mathematical Dream and Its Interpretation 265 Chapter 10. No Apologies 279 Chapter delta. How to Explain Number Theory at a Dinner Party 311 (Fourth Session: Order and Randomness) 311 Afterword: The Veil of Maya 321 Notes 327 Bibliography 397 Index of Mathematicians 423 Subject Index 427

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

Reviews for Mathematics without Apologies: Portrait of a Problematic Vocation

Winner of the 2016 PROSE Award in Mathematics, Association of American Publishers One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for the Year Winner of the 2016 PROSE Award in Mathematics, Association of American Publishers One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015 Mathematics without Apologiesis a kaleidoscope of philosophical, sociological, historical and literary perspectives on what mathematicians do, and why. --Amir Alexander, Nature A wry and insightful look at what being a pure mathematician is all about, as seen from the inside. --Steven Strogatz, Physics Today If you are interested at all in what mathematics really is and what the best mathematicians really do (and you're up for an intellectual challenge), I highly recommend that you get a copy and set some time aside for delving into this unusual book... Harris manages to move back and forth between the deepest ideas about mathematics at the frontiers of the subject, insightful takes on the sociology of mathematical research, and a variety of topics pursued in a sometimes gonzo version of post-modern academic style. You will surely sometimes be baffled, but definitely will come away knowing about many things you'd never heard of before, and with a lot of new ideas to think about. --Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong Harris is the kind of mathematician one hopes to meet at an intimate dinner party. By sharing his professional and personal relationship to mathematics, [he] links art, philosophy, music, and literature to academic culture and research problems. --Library Journal Extraordinary, extravagant... Harris is a 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. --Choice The erudition displayed by Harris in this book is amazing... The satisfaction it gives is more than rewarding. --A. Bultheel, Adhemar Bultheel Blog This book is a rich tapestry interweaving various aspects of culture and tradition--social, economic, religious, aesthetic--in an attempt to explicate the three basic philosophical questions underlying mathematics as a human endeavor: the What, Why and How of it. --Swami Vidyanathananda, Prabuddha Bharata Michael Harris is more than a mathematician; he is a Parisian intellectual. --Brendan Larvor, London Mathematical Society Newsletter Even apprentice number theorists can understand and enjoy this well-written book. Harris's theories are coherent and rational, and he provides lay readers clarity into what contemporary mathematicians really do. --Bernadette Trainer, Mathematics Teacher

  • Short-listed for Choice 's Outstanding Academic Titles for the Year 2015
  • Short-listed for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2015
  • Shortlisted for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2015.
  • Winner of PROSE Award in Mathematics, Association of American Publishers 2016

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