The Mathematician's Brain

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Princeton University Press, 2007 - Mathematics - 160 pages
3 Reviews


The Mathematician's Brain poses a provocative question about the world's most brilliant yet eccentric mathematical minds: were they brilliant because of their eccentricities or in spite of them? In this thought-provoking and entertaining book, David Ruelle, the well-known mathematical physicist who helped create chaos theory, gives us a rare insider's account of the celebrated mathematicians he has known-their quirks, oddities, personal tragedies, bad behavior, descents into madness, tragic ends, and the sublime, inexpressible beauty of their most breathtaking mathematical discoveries.


Consider the case of British mathematician Alan Turing. Credited with cracking the German Enigma code during World War II and conceiving of the modern computer, he was convicted of "gross indecency" for a homosexual affair and died in 1954 after eating a cyanide-laced apple--his death was ruled a suicide, though rumors of assassination still linger. Ruelle holds nothing back in his revealing and deeply personal reflections on Turing and other fellow mathematicians, including Alexander Grothendieck, René Thom, Bernhard Riemann, and Felix Klein. But this book is more than a mathematical tell-all. Each chapter examines an important mathematical idea and the visionary minds behind it. Ruelle meaningfully explores the philosophical issues raised by each, offering insights into the truly unique and creative ways mathematicians think and showing how the mathematical setting is most favorable for asking philosophical questions about meaning, beauty, and the nature of reality.



The Mathematician's Brain takes you inside the world--and heads--of mathematicians. It's a journey you won't soon forget.


 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - FPdC - LibraryThing

This book, by a world famous dynamicist and mathematical physicist, is a kind of digression about mathematics, mathematicians, ethics, politics, philosophy, and more. His discussions of mathematics ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

These ~150 pages harbor quite a variety of opinionated but meaty little chapters on the basic nature of mathematics and what it means to be a mathematician. Read full review

Contents

Scientific Thinking
1
What Is Mathematics?
5
The Erlangen Program
11
Mathematics and Ideologies
17
The Unity of Mathematics
23
A Glimpse into Algebraic Geometry and Arithmetic
29
A Trip to Nancy with Alexander Grothendieck
34
Structures
41
Structures and Concept Creation
73
Turings Apple
78
Mathematical Invention Psychology and Aesthetics
85
The Circle Theorem and an Infinite Dimensional Labyrinth
91
Mistake
97
The Smile of Mona Lisa
103
Tinkering and the Construction of Mathematical Theories
108
The Strategy of Mathematical Invention
113

The Computer and the Brain
46
Mathematical Texts
52
Honors
57
Infinity The Smoke Screen of the Gods
63
Foundations
68
Mathematical Physics and Emergent Behavior
119
The Beauty of Mathematics
127
Notes
131
Index
157
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

David Ruelle is professor emeritus of mathematical physics at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in France and distinguished visiting professor of mathematics at Rutgers University. His books include Chance and Chaos (Princeton).

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