A Mathematical Adventure

This week I got a chance to read The Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani. In this book Cedric takes us on a mesmerising adventure as he and his peers wrestle with the Boltzmann Equation — a new theorem that will eventually win him the most coveted prize in the field of mathematics — Fields Medal.

When I started out with this book I had no clue what I was getting into. I was fasciated by the name and the cover of the book. I thought there would be little maths, tons of fascinating stories & an insights into the modus operandi of mathematicians. I couldn’t have made a worse guess. Its pure maths & a little of the other things I mentioned. There are pages that are full of partial differential equations! Emails encrypted in equations & terms that normal people can not understand! I was really about to give up on finishing this book after reading half of it. I had no motive to continue reading it when I really couldn’t understand most of the writing in the book. But then I decided to give it 1 more sitting & finish as much as I could. This last 4 hours with the book turned out to be some of the best hours of my week.

Nothing is more precious than an unlit path! When the moon is hidden, you can’t even see ten feet ahead. You walk a bit faster, your heart beats a little more quickly, your senses are in a heightened state of alert. The slightest noise makes your ears prick up. You tell yourself that the way home seems longer than usual. You imagine a robber lying in wait. You try not to run.
After the darkness comes a faint, faint glimmer of light, just enough to make you think that something is there, almost within reach, waiting to be discovered… Then after the faint, faint glimmer if all goes well, you unravel the thread — and suddenly its broad daylight. You are full of confidence , you want to tell anyone who will listen about what you have found…

One’ll be able to finish the book only when one ignores the maths part. Its like staring at a painting that you find beautiful but don’t why and don’t have the slightest means to analyse it further. The only thing one can do is to stay fascinated by the art. As it turns out, this article too, suggests, this in the only way to finish the book.

In between the pages, you’ll be fascinated by Cedric’s personality, his genius, his taste in music, his approach to mathematics and a lot more. You’ll get to know more about John Nash and a lot many other notable figures in the field of mathematics.

I don’t know what someone else’s reason to read this book would be. Mine was pretty simple — I wanted to know more about this person and the life of mathematicians. Is it as ambiguous as mine? Is it like a sine wave — days when you discover something that keeps a smile on your face the whole day to days that you don’t want to end because you haven’t found anything worthwhile to justify your existence on that day? How much of patience does one really needs? etc etc… And this book does offers perspectives on all of them. Not something absolutely new but something that you’ll find resonating if you have thought about these things yourself.

As an ending note, here is Mr. Cedric Villani at TED, discussing what’s so sexy about maths

So if you do give this one a reading, don’t feel bad about skimming through the pages.

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This post is a part of my goal to read one book every week and write my thoughts about it here. This is the third book I have read and I hope to read a lot more!

I read books, make things, design some & go out to meet new people. I was previously a cofounder at Tinkerform — A Design & Innovation Consulting, if you are looking for a Design/Innovation partner, do check them out!