Thursday, July 28, 2005

Number Theory

I began reading a new novel last evening, "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time" by Mark Haddon. I love it!

On page 12 I encountered the following: "Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away."

I bought two books last year that I have glanced at, but have yet to read slowly. The first is called "Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics" by John Derbyshire. The second is "Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis: The Quest to Find the Hidden Law of Prime Numbers" by Dan Rockmore.

If one needs extrinsic motivation, there is a prize of one million dollars for the individual who is able to prove that the Riemann Hypothesis is true (or false).

Number theory and the subset that deals with prime numbers (i.e. numbers that have no divisors other than 1 and the number itself) is a branch of mathematics that is fascinating in its own right. Surprisingly it is also relevant to the idea of developing codes that are unbreakable, a topic of current interest with the surge of interest in the Internet and the World Wide Web.

In addition to my interest in calculus, I am interested in learning more about number theory. However these topics all have a way of interlocking. The two fundamental ideas of calculus are those of function and limit. The same two ideas are at the heart of the Riemann Hypothesis.

The Mark Haddon novel continues, "I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them."

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