Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fermat's Enigma

My copy is overdue at the library, and since I plan on making a trip there this afternoon, I figured I'd better write this. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book too! I thought it was fascinating, although it completely lost me towards the end when it started talking about modular equations.

One of the main reasons I liked it so much, is that it made me appreciate how amazingly intelligent humans can be and the potential we have. Does anyone remember in Anne of Green Gables when Anne is talking to Diana about whether she would be infinitely good, stunningly beautiful, or astoundingly intelligent? (I paraphrased that.) Well, I always--even as a kid--would have chosen the intelligent one, although I felt rather guilty because I thought I should chose the good one. Anyway, this book made me wish that again. The genius of the people involved is really humbling to me. It kind of puts me in awe of the human race again, since generally speaking I don't have a high opinion of the average joe.

I had no idea of the complexities of mathematics in the theoretical realm and how many applications that has. For instance, how all the rivers can be calculated to have a ratio of pi between the actual length and direct distance. Also, to me, the author is right that mathematics has an appeal because "Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven true are true until the end of time." vs. "...the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory. However, the scientific theory can never be proven to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available." pg. 21

The development in mathematics and the logic involved is incredible to me too. I loved how the author explained parts of this, "The solution for Bombelli was to create a new number, i, called an imaginary number... This might seem like a cowardly solution to the problem, but it was no different to the way in which negative numbers were introduced." pg. 84 To me, imaginary numbers are so completely odd and hard to comprehend (yes, I'm not that great in math). It makes i seem more normal to read "It should be noted that mathematicians consider imaginary numbers to be no more abstract than a negative number or any counting number. Furthermore, physicists discovered that imaginary numbers provide the best language for describing some real-world phenomena." pg 86

I also loved, "I am a liar!" pg. 141 and "This statement does not have a proof." pg 142, it's so fun to try to wrap your mental abilities around those. Hee. Hee. Also another fun logical "proof," was Pascal's "religion was a game of infinite excitement and one worth playing, because multiplying an infinite prize by a finite probability results in infinity."pg. 21 Although not logical at all, and certainly no proof, was Euler's "Sir, a+b nth power/n=x, hence God exists; reply!" pg. 76--I was laughing out loud when I read that anecdote.

I'll end with that since I have to go get me crying baby. Chau.

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