Love and math book review
LOVE AND MATH by Edward Frenkel | Kirkus ReviewsThank you! Jews were denied education in fields such as mathematical physics, which were considered important for national security. As the son of a Jewish father, Frenkel was denied admission to Moscow State University despite his brilliant showing on entrance exams and tracked instead to study applied mathematics at a different school. Frenkel's parents, who worked as professional engineers in an industrial town 70 miles from Moscow, had recognized the brilliance of their son and enlisted a local college professor to mentor him in higher mathematics while he was still in secondary school. Fortunately for him, with Gorbachev's rise to power, Frenkel was allowed to immigrate to the United States and attend Harvard.
Along the way, there are lots of different things going on in the book, all of them quite interesting. He explains how he fell in love with mathematics, his struggles with the grotesque anti-Semitism of the Soviet system of that time this chapter of the story was published earlier, available here , his experiences with Gelfand and others, and how he came to the US and ended up beginning a successful academic career in the West at Harvard. I remember fairly well the upheaval in the mathematics research community of that era, as the collapse of the Soviet system brought a flood of brilliant mathematicians from Russia to the West. Russia at the time had a vibrant mathematical culture, but one isolated from and quite different than that of the West. Many of its most talented members had rather marginal positions in official academia, and their community was driven much more by a passion for the subject than any sort of careerism. Frenkel comes out of this background with that passion intact, and it shines throughout his book.
I read pop math books. Quite a few, in fact. Also, sometimes publishers send me advance copies and ask for reviews. I generally read these too. What makes me a bad reviewer is that I then wait for 6 — 20 months before I actually write anything down.
But when he came closer, he grimaced. I hate it! Frenkel believes math deserves to be an integral part of our culture. As a student, Frenkel, too, shunned math. He was seduced by physics and particularly fascinated by the theory of quarks, the building blocks for, among other things, the protons and neutrons that make up the atomic nucleus.
What if you had to take an art class in which you were taught only how to paint a fence, but were never shown the paintings of van Gogh or Picasso? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.
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