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The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Paul Hoffman
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12. Mai 1999
Based on a National Magazine Award-winning article, this masterful biography of Hungarian-born Paul Erdos is both a vivid portrait of an eccentric genius and a layman's guide to some of this century's most startling mathematical discoveries.

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Paul Erdös was an amazing and prolific mathematician whose life as a world-wandering numerical nomad was legendary. He published almost 1500 scholarly papers before his death in 1996, and he probably thought more about math problems than anyone in history. Like a traveling salesman offering his thoughts as wares, Erdös would show up on the doorstep of one mathematician or another and announce, "My brain is open." After working through a problem, he'd move on to the next place, the next solution.

Hoffman's book, like Sylvia Nasar's biography of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind, reveals a genius's life that transcended the merely quirky. But Erdös's brand of madness was joyful, unlike Nash's despairing schizophrenia. Erdös never tried to dilute his obsessive passion for numbers with ordinary emotional interactions, thus avoiding hurting the people around him, as Nash did. Oliver Sacks writes of Erdös: "A mathematical genius of the first order, Paul Erdös was totally obsessed with his subject--he thought and wrote mathematics for nineteen hours a day until the day he died. He traveled constantly, living out of a plastic bag, and had no interest in food, sex, companionship, art--all that is usually indispensable to a human life."

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers is easy to love, despite his strangeness. It's hard not to have affection for someone who referred to children as "epsilons," from the Greek letter used to represent small quantities in mathematics; a man whose epitaph for himself read, "Finally I am becoming stupider no more"; and whose only really necessary tool to do his work was a quiet and open mind. Hoffman, who followed and spoke with Erdös over the last 10 years of his life, introduces us to an undeniably odd, yet pure and joyful, man who loved numbers more than he loved God--whom he referred to as SF, for Supreme Fascist. He was often misunderstood, and he certainly annoyed people sometimes, but Paul Erdös is no doubt missed. --Therese Littleton -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .


"Hoffman's playful, plainspoken and often hilarious biography of a monkish, impish, generous genius is purest pleasure." Mail on Sunday "Paul Hoffman's wittily articulated life of the mathematical genius Paul Erdos opens a door to a sunlit upland of pure logic, populated by bungee-bouncing, bearded maniacs and absurdly intelligent men who never learnt to tie their own shoelaces...Anyone with an interest in the science of numbers should read this." Observer "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers is one of the most accessible and engaging introductions to the world of pure mathematics you are ever likely to come across." Graham Farmelo, Sunday Telegraph "A wonderful, playful, insightful life of this century's most unusual mathematician." Ian Stewart, Independent -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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It was dinnertime in Greenbrook, New Jersey, on a cold spring day in 1987, and Paul Erdos, then seventy-four, had lost four mathematical colleagues, who were sitting fifty feet in front of him, sipping green tea. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Worst biography I have ever read 26. Dezember 1999
Von Ein Kunde
This is the worst biography I have ever read. There is no common thread that holds the book together. It seems like different parts have been cut from different sources and pasted here. There are absolutely non-sensical and useless diversions into Hardy and his interest in cricket, Ramanujan and his food habits etc. Cheap tricks to get attention and hide poor research.
It is clear that the author has no interest in mathematics and it almost seems like the book was published to cash in on Erdos's death and the media attention the event was getting.
Save your money and time.
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen This book is horrible. 25. Mai 1999
Von Ein Kunde
I bought this book to learn more about the life and work of Paul Erdos. I expected a biography. Instead, I found an appalling amount of filler. Anecdotes not about Erdos, as I expected from the reviews but cliched anecdotes about famous figures in the history of mathematics. Why does the author bore us with this? Who amongst his readers hasn't already heard these well-worn stories before? Though the author claims to have interviewed him extensively, I almost doubt it. This book places uneven weight on certain periods of his life, seemingly for no other reason than that he didn't bother to do thorough research. Definitely the worst scientist-biography I've read (And I've read many.) I still want to know more about Erdos. I am left with a very incomplete image. I am hoping that the competing biography, "My Brain is Open" will be a bit better.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The life of a mathematical minstrel 28. April 2000
This is an excellent biography of one of the most extraordinary people of this century, but the title is inaccurate. Mathematics is much more than just number manipulation and Paul Erdös worked in every area of the field. Most ancient cultures had the tradition of the traveling minstrel, someone who moved from place to place, trading news and tales for food and lodging. In Western history, the most well-known person is Homer, the "author" of the Iliad.
Paul Erdös was a modern reincarnation of a bard in the Homeric tradition. With no fixed home or job, he traveled the world with a set of possessions that would fit in modern airline carry-on luggage. His collection and transference of mathematical knowledge will ultimately prove to be the most significant contribution of all minstrels down through history.
Paul Hoffman captures the essence of Erdös in all respects. His genius, idiosynchracies, eccentricities, fundamental goodness, kindness, consideration and amazing capacity for work are described in wonderful detail. Speaking a language all his own, he was also blessed with a sense of humor. In his world, a male was a slave and a female a master. Children were epsilons and people who did not do mathematics trivial beings.
The life of Paul Erdös was also intertwined with the major historical events of this century. His father left home to fight for the empire of Austria-Hungary in the first world war. Like so many talented people, he fled the gathering storm of Europe to seek refuge in the English speaking areas. After the conclusion of the second world war, where many in his family were killed in the camps, he found himself running afoul of those paranoid enough to see communists everywhere there was honest disagreement.
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Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is an exquisitely enjoyable biograpny of the legendaryHungarian mathematician Paul Erdos. I read "The Man Who LovedOnly Numbers" practically in one sitting. Hoffman spent a lot of time around Erdos and the mathematicians who knew Erdos. The result is a biography with a personal feel for its subject, laced with quotes from Erdos and anecdotes from those who knew him well..
Erdos was an eccentric character: he had a private vocabulary for the commonplace (e.g., "Supreme Fascist" for "God" and "epsilon" for child). His single-minded devotion to math was legendary, as were his peripatetic lifestyle and helplessness around all things material. Hoffman paints a vivid portrait of this eccentiric man and, in subtle ways, demonstrates his impact on several generations of mathematicians.
Hoffman also weaves in an accessible account of several mathematical fields to which Erdos contributed, such as Ramsey theory, number theory, combinatorics, and graph theory. Hoffman clearly and entertainingly explains some of the fundamental ideas involved in these fields.
I have two criticisms. First, Hoffman wrongly states that the difference between a transcendental number like pi and an "ordinary" irrational like the square root of 2 is that the decimal expansion of a trascendental neither terminates nor repeats itself. In fact, no irrational's decimal expansion terminates or repeats itself; numbers with this property are rational. The difference, instead, is that transcendental numbers are not the roots of algebraic equations, while "ordinary" irrationals are. This may seem a piddling criticism, but a book about a mathematician should have got this basic distinction right.
Second, the book lacks a coherent theme.
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This is an unconventional biography of an extremely unconventional person. Hoffman does not follow the classic chronological structure of laying out the subject's life. Rather, he creates a web of anecdotes and vignettes on Erdos, narratives on and by his colleagues and collaborators, and lucid explanations of some of the mathematical problems Erdos spent his life on. For someone other than Erdos Hoffman's tactic may not have worked. For Erdos, it works brilliantly. Here is why: Erdos was completely addicted to math from about age four until the minute he died, and undoubtedly spent the vast majority of his conscious life in the world of math. He was also an oddly and intensely social man - but exclusively through math. Doing math together, collaborating on papers, talking, living, breathing math in conjunction with others (and totally exhausting them in the process) was just about his only way of connecting to other people. These math-based social connections were in their peculiar way unfathomably rich, deep, and intense, as well as far-flung and extremely numerous. Hoffman biographical approach permits Erdos's (conventionally speaking) totally dispersed and rootless and (mathematically speaking) totally focused life to emerge in all its complexity and splendor. By conveying a strong sense of the pristine beauty and lucidity of math as Erdos saw it, Hoffman makes intelligible why Erdos so strongly preferred the mathematical world to ours. This is one of the best books for finding out why mathematicians are so enamored of their subject.
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Die neuesten Kundenrezensionen
5.0 von 5 Sternen Fantastic!
I found this book really gripping. The author described the historical context of Erdos' life well and explained the math in a way that a non-mathematician could easily... Lesen Sie weiter...
Am 4. Juli 2000 veröffentlicht
5.0 von 5 Sternen A great read
This is a wonderful book. Hoffman writes a series of vignettes about Paul Erdos, a giant of number theory. Erdos, who died in 1996, was as eccentric as he was brilliant. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 29. Juni 2000 von James Davis
4.0 von 5 Sternen How a good biography should be
This is one of two excellent biographies published shortly after Paul Erdos' death (the other being "my brain is open" by B.Schechter) This book succeeds on many levels. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 5. Juni 2000 von Giuseppe A. Paleologo
4.0 von 5 Sternen Paul- what an eccentric!
If you want to read a biography of an eccentric but highly accomplished man, look no further. Paul Erdos may have lacked everyday practical skills, may have had a very disheveled... Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 2. Juni 2000 von Laura Miller
3.0 von 5 Sternen An interesting read...
Having had no prior knowledge of Paul Erdos and his work, I purchased this book on a whim. I enjoy biographies of interesting people and he certainly was one. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 5. Mai 2000 von Debbie Tam
5.0 von 5 Sternen superb biographical account !
Needless to say Erdos, the most prolific mathematician of all times had a curious yet eventful life ! Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 28. März 2000 von Nishant
1.0 von 5 Sternen A Waste of Money
This is a book filled with garbages which the author took from somewhere else and forcefully pasted them together in a rather distorted way. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 16. März 2000 von John Williams
5.0 von 5 Sternen An odd book, but a wonderful one
This book is tremendous fun to read. It's not very well organized, it jumps around a lot, it gets lost in tangents - but it manages to capture that pure, fresh, clear and utterly... Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 10. Februar 2000 von Hans U. Widmaier
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good reading for biography fans
I received this book as a gift, and as a non-mathematician I thought it was both an interesting biography and an engaging overview of some of the key events and themes in modern... Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 20. Januar 2000 von Brian Reynolds
5.0 von 5 Sternen Math Was Never this Much Fun
The best book I have read in months because the human being and the mathematical mind make an irresistable brew both touching and stimulating. Lesen Sie weiter...
Veröffentlicht am 14. Januar 2000 von Charles T. Bauer
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