Prime time for Riemann Hypothesis

Books that make you think

I already had a post where I mentioned Reimann Hypothesis after reading The Music of The Primes by Marcus du Sautoy. As far as I recall, I liked the book a lot. It was written for a wide audience and was an easy read. Later, I accidentally found another book on the subject that was intended for more mathematically inclined readers, namely, Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire. Having been fascinated by the subject of prime numbers, the prime number theorem it was a short way to other similar books, such as Prime Number and the Riemann Hypothesis by Barry Mazur and William Stein. Then smoothly transitioning to A Study of Bernhard Riemann’s 1895 Paper by Terrence P. Murphy. Just to conclude with H.M. Edwards Riemann Zeta Function. By the way, the order in which I mentioned the books more or less conveys the mastery of mathematics required to be able to understand what’s going on in them. Which means that two last books require substantial background in calculus and complex analysis. But it’s doable if you have time and prime obsession.

Easy to not-so-easy books

I’d like to provide more details about the books above which I personally read end-to-end and also about ones that I bought, but haven’t finished yet, or only skimmed through.

Actually, I’d rather start with a short description of what the Reimann Hypothesis is by citing the Millennium Problems web site that describes a number of 21st century math problems that can bring you 1,000,000 USD for solving any of them.

So the Riemann Hypothesis is

Source: Millennium Problems

Some numbers have the special property that they cannot be expressed as the product of two smaller numbers, e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. Such numbers are called prime numbers, and they play an important role, both in pure mathematics and its applications. The distribution of such prime numbers among all natural numbers does not follow any regular pattern.  However, the German mathematician G.F.B. Riemann (1826 – 1866) observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behavior of an elaborate function
    ζ(s) = 1 + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + …
called the Riemann Zeta function. The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the equation
    ζ(s) = 0
lie on a certain vertical straight line.
This has been checked for the first 10,000,000,000,000 solutions. A proof that it is true for every interesting solution would shed light on many of the mysteries surrounding the distribution of prime numbers.

Having said that now let’s look at the books.

The Music of The Primes

The book was written by Marcus du Sautoy in 2003. As I mentioned, the book does not require a degree in mathematics to be able to understands what it’s talking about. The material in it is interesting and engaging. In addition to covering, The Prime Number Theorem and Reimann Hypothesis it also covers other topics related to prime numbers usage, like cryptography. It can be a good starting point into a long journey with prime numbers.

Prime Numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis

The book was written by Barry Mazur and William Stein in 2016. It has four parts, where first part intended for a wide audience, and each consecutive part presuppose gradually increasing knowledge of math to be able to grasp the content. What’s interesting about this book that it sheds light on some interesting connections between Riemann Hypothesis and Fourie Transform, which electrical engineers can relate to. Also the book is quite short.

Prime Obsession

The book is written by John Derbyshire in 2003 (same year when Marcus du Sautoy wrote his book). This book has two parts: The Prime Number Theorem and The Riemann Hypothesis, but it goes into nitty gritty details of both of them and don’t allow a reader relax too much. Following the content of the book could require some math background and at times some calculations to be sure that one gets proper understanding of what’s going on. Personally, out of all the books I mention in this post I find this one the most engaging.

A Study of Bernhard Riemann’s 1859 Paper

The book is written by Terrence P. Murthy in 2020. It is one of the two most technical books on the subject that requires substantial background in mathematics. The book provides Riemann’s 1859 paper in full in English and then systematically goes and provide proofs for all relevant parts of Riemann’s paper in subsequent chapters (except for the Riemann Hypothesis itself :). I think Terrence Murphy summarizes who this book is intended for in his own words the best:

Who Is This Book For?
If you are reading this, chances are you have developed a keen interest in the Reimann Hypothesis. Maybe you read John Derbyshire’s excellent book Prime Obsession. Or perhaps you read that the Riemann Hypothesis is one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems, with a $1 million prize for its proof.
To advance your knowledge substantially beyond Derbyshire’s book, you must have (or develop) a good understanding of the field of complex analysis (we will describe that as knowledge at the “hobbyist” level). So, this book is probably not for you unless you are at least at the hobbyist level.

Riemann Zeta Function

The book was written by H.M. Edwards in 1974. I’d rather describe it by continuing the citation from the previous book by Terrence P. Murthy:

After developing an interest in the Riemann Hypothesis, the first stopping point for many is Edwards’ excellent book Riemann’s Zeta Function. The Edwards book provides a wealth of information and insight on the zeta function, the Prime Number Theorem and the Riemann Hypothesis. And that brings us to the next group of people who do not need this book. If you eat, sleep and breath complex analysis, we will say you are at the “guru” level. In that case, the Edwards book will be easy reading and will provide you with the information you need to substantially advance your knowledge of Riemann’s Paper and the Riemann Hypothesis.

As you may tell, “guru” level in math is required to fully digest this book. So it want be easy to say the least.

A good introductory paper on the subject

If you are interested in a short, but engaging introduction into what are Prime Number Theorem and the Riemann Hypothesis I recommend to read Don Zagier’s The First 50 Millions Prime Numbers paper, published in New Mathematical Intelligencer (1977) 1-19.

If you know Russian you can read the same paper that was published in Russian only in 1984 in the Uspekhi Matematicheskikh Nauk journal.

Parting words

All in all, these five books can take a good chunk of a full year to work through or possibly even more, especially the last two. So what are you waiting for? Life is too short to waste it on watching TV series or YouTube nonsense. The treasures of math and deeper understanding of the world are awaiting for ones who know where to look for.

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