Love and Math

  • by Edward Frenkel
  • Narrated by Tony Craine
  • 10 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A book that probably loses from being read aloud

What did you like best about Love and Math? What did you like least?

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.

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- Michael

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.
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- Gary

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-18-2013
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC