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Love and Math

The Heart of Hidden Reality
Narrated by: Tony Craine
Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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Summary

What if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren't even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.

In Love and Math, renowned mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we've never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate audiobook, Frenkel shows that mathematics, far from occupying a specialist niche, goes to the heart of all matter, uniting us across cultures, time, and space.

Love and Math tells two intertwined stories: of the wonders of mathematics and of one young man's journey learning and living it. Having braved a discriminatory educational system to become one of the twenty-first century's leading mathematicians, Frenkel now works on one of the biggest ideas to come out of math in the last 50 years: the Langlands Program.

Considered by many to be a Grand Unified Theory of mathematics, the Langlands Program enables researchers to translate findings from one field to another so that they can solve problems, such as Fermat's last theorem, that had seemed intractable before. At its core, Love and Math is a story about accessing a new way of thinking, which can enrich our lives and empower us to better understand the world and our place in it. It is an invitation to discover the magic hidden universe of mathematics.

©2013 Edward Frankel (P)2013 Gildan Media LLC

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Bit of a mixed bag - don't get audiobook

What didn’t you like about Tony Craine’s performance?

He clearly didn't understand a lot of what he was reading - it's quite heavy maths in places, and it was impossible to understand. Also, just not getting the concepts of what he was saying meant he sometimes put the emphasis in strange places making it so hard to follow. Not great.

Any additional comments?

Argh, finally finished this book. Unsurprisingly, it does not work as an audiobook. Do not buy it from Audible.

I think when I got it, I believed it was more of a book about mathematicians or a fictionalised autobiography, than a book about maths. It's sort of both, but there is a fair amount of actual maths (and significantly advanced maths, at that). And that's just impossible to make sense of while listening. Particularly as the narrator, Tony Craine, clearly has absolutely no idea what he is saying, so his emphasis is often totally off, or he reads things in a way that doesn't distinguish where brackets would be, so it's just impossible to follow no matter how hard you listen - there's not enough information conveyed.

The story itself I really enjoyed - it was a fascinating account of education and anti-semitism in Soviet Russia, as well as great insight into the lives of professional mathematicians. I did a maths degree so I can't comment on how it would come across to the layman, but I found the actual maths a bit hard-going and uninteresting - these are difficult, complicated concepts that weren't very interesting when you can't get into either the nitty-gritty or appreciate the broader concepts.

A bit of a mixed bag. Quite enjoyable in parts, but I'm glad to be done. Don't get the audiobook.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wauw. Math made beautiful and simple

Where does Love and Math rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Really loved this book. I have always been intrigued with math and it's possibilities but never got further than basic functions. Thanks to Edward frenkel I now dare to dream that I might do more with math than before.
The story is inspiring and gripping. The narrator is doing a great job: there are various equations mentioned which I imagine makes narrating a bit tricky but with a book on math quite unavoidable. His voice is pleasant and very suited for this book.

In short: this book rekindled my love for math. Thank you Edward.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 11-05-14

A book that probably loses from being read aloud

What did you like best about Love and Math? What did you like least?

Best was the personal story of the author's personal triumph over prejudice in Moscow. Despite horrible anti-semitism, he was able to escape to America and be, at least in his own estimation (with apparent plausibility) a well regarded academic mathematician.
The unfolding mathematical story, as well as personal one, appeared to have the potential to be fascinating. But given it is pitched at a general audience who are not trained in maths, it failed in explaining itself. Given that part of the author's argument (at least expressed in other forums than this book) is that the school curriculum being too slow to take up the progress in mathematics over the last couple of centuries, and that it has the potential to be fascinating, this is a serious failure. The way the mathematical advances are presented in this book, if it is thought by a serious mathematician to be presented for an intelligent lay audience, strains the believability of the proposition that such mathematics can ever be generally accessible.
Having only listened to the audio book, I do, however, wonder whether this is caused by having to listen to mathematical formulas rather than read them. The words or numbers and symbols on the page of a book, may be more accessible. A possibility is that I have a visually dominant input so that aural input is more difficult. But I found it very difficult to keep the boringly read formulas in my head long enough to work out whether they presented an argument. (Of course, I accept that they did, just that it bypassed me completely) I also supposed that the book must have contained illustrations which are not referred to at all in the auditory text. I suspect if you had the written material in front of you you could at least stop and look at it and read it several times and reason mathematically a little bit about it so it would be more likely to stay in one's head for the next part of the argument.
Possibly this was exacerbated by the reader who seemed not to have a very good ability to give emphasis and nuance to what he was reading. There were several times where
I felt I picked up a lot of mathematical jargon - fields, groups, sets, braids, loops, Galois things, Lie algebra, Langlands program, Weill's rosetta stone, vector spaces, legrangians, Katz-Moody algebras - I'm not sure how to spell all these at is all auditory. But I really can't say that any of this terminology has any meaning to me.
The experience was really just like watching the news in Chinese, with English commentary interspersed to provide historical updates. Unless you speak a bit of Chinese, you wouldn't get it. It was the same here, you need to be pretty knowledgeable about maths to understand the importance of the maths presented.
Perhaps this is just my lack of education in higher mathematics - but that was why i thought I'd be interested to read the book - to gain some general conception of what modern mathematics is really about. I failed. Perhaps it's just me.

Despite these significant shortcomings, the book was interesting and I learnt a tiny shadowy amount of what goes on in that foreign land.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • 31-03-14

Answers tough questions, but not for all listeners

I enjoyed the book, but would be hard pressed to recommend it since he does explain all the details that goes into the relevant math and the listener can get lost within the weeds of the math. I did not know this branch of mathematics and was able to follow the details, but sometimes it did get overwhelming.

Math is beautiful. Behind our current different branches of abstract math there exist an ultimate theory that ties each branch together. This book explains all of this by delving into the mathematical details and stepping the listener through many abstract math concepts.

The author tells an exciting story. The description of the fundamental particles of nature are said to be described by the "eight fold path". I've often wondered what that meant. The book starts by explaining what it means to be symmetrical and how we can transform objects into mathematically equivalent systems. This leads to Evariste Galois the greatest mathematician who you probably never have heard of. On the night before he died in a duel, he connected number theory to geometry by considering the relationship of certain groups (Galois Groups) with their fields and some symmetries in order to solve quintic equations (fifth degree polynomials). Once again, I had often wondered about what was so special about solving fifth degree polynomials. The book steps me through that.

The ultimate theory of math tries to show the correspondences between different diverse areas of abstract math and then the author ties this to QED and string theory. He'll even explain what SU3 means in the standard model by analogy with constructing SO3 spaces (standard 3 dimensional ordinate systems). He'll step you through the vector spaces, function theory, and metric spaces and the functions of the metric space (sheaves) that you'll need to understand what it all means.

He really does tie all the concepts together and explains them as he presents them. You'll understand why string theorist think there could be 10 to the 500 different possible universes and so on.

Just so that any reader of this review fully understands, this is a very difficult book, and should only be listened to by someone who has wondered about some of the following topics, the meaning of the "eight fold path", the SU3 construction, and why Galois is relevant to today's physics, tying of math branches and physics together, and other just as intriguing ideas. I had, and he answers these by getting in the weeds and never talking down to the listener, but I'm guessing the typical reader hasn't wondered these topics and this book will not be as entertaining to them and might be hard to follow.

P.S. A book like this really highlights while I like audible so much. If I had read the book instead of listening to it, it would have taken me eight hours per most pages because I would have had to understand everything before preceding, but by listening I have to not dwell on a page. Another thing, the author really missed a great opportunity by making the book too complex, because he has a great math story to tell and he could have made easier analogies and talked around the jargon better.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Warren
  • 26-02-16

Quite possibly the best book I've ever read

As a math major I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it filled me with joy, pride, humility, and ambition. I am now more certain than I've ever been that I was born to do mathematics.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mario
  • 08-10-14

A little too complex for "normal" people

I bought the audiobook and the Kindle book, but I found it too difficult to follow the information on the audio, as it always refers to numbers, symbols and equations. The information was worth reading, so I could get an overview on what a “mathematician world” is like. The information is way too complex to understand, at least for me who does not have any mathematical background.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Miles Shannon
  • 16-10-19

great book if you enjoy mathematics

This book gets a little technical for those that didn't get past calculus. The Soviet and Russian background in mathematics was great, and new to me. I highly recommend for those that study math or science.

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  • Andy Cyca
  • 14-09-19

Too technical at times, weird mix of genres

I'm not sure what is the purpose of this book. It has too much technical discussion and at the same time enough biographic narratives and stories to get you interested in Frenkel's journey into math, only to be interrupted constantly to actually discuss the mathematics.

I love my scientific journalism and scientific communication. While there's the concern of authors «dumbing down» the science to make it more digestible, going completely in the other direction is not necessarily a smart decision. Here, Frenkel dives deep into discussion of graduate and post-graduate mathematics with a few analogies peppered here and there. His explanations in general are good, but are still hard to follow. This book assumes a good deal of mathematical knowledge from its reader.

It's not a bad book by any means, but I'm not sure is a great one. As mentioned, it is part memoir, part mathematical communication and those aren't always combined in satisfactory ratios for my taste. As the book goes on (particularly from chapter 10 onwards) the biographical narration is interrupted quite rudely and the pacing is al over the place. It's hard for me to recommend this book, but it's also hard for me to say that you should skip it. Just remember that if you do try it, you're in for a book in its own category.

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  • Michael F.
  • 13-09-19

convoluted. Needs clear discussion.

I appreciate the author has a deep and lasting relationship with mathematics. I wish more humans had such an opportunity to truly get to pursue such a labor of love. in that, it is clear the author has had unique life opportunities to develop and sustain his mathematics pursuits. Yet, this is basically about one of the most powerful organizing mathematical programs of our time, the Langlands program. A grand unifying theory for all of mathematics, as the author puts it. so, one would hope to learn about this grand unifying theory given the opening pages and context of this audio book. In that respect the author fails. This is not about the Langlands program for an easy to digest format. Many foundational ideas and building blocks necessary for the program are simply brought into the story with no explanation, no discussion, or an entirely messy, disorganized, and convoluted approach. This makes the story uninteresting, pedantic to follow in audio book form, and taxing cognitively in just continuing to listen. I venture the print text has the same issue. In the end, this befuddles the overall story and makes this almost entirely an autobiography and not about important, substantive connections between number theory, geometry, and quantum physics.

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  • Maxim G.
  • 24-06-19

Mathy book should have more math literate reader

First, I want to say that the reader pronounces French and other languages quite well. But this leads me to ask why he kept pronouncing Fermat incorrectly, when Fermat is French; this is a little unfortunate since Fermat is in the book at least 20 times. Euler is also mispronounced (that is, not said in the usual English way), and a handful of other world famous mathematicians. This is unfortunate because someone who doesn't know much about math will miss this opportunity to learn the name of one of the best mathematicians of all time.

Otherwise, the reading was pretty good, but I've heard better.

The story is inspiring and was a pleasure to follow. Frenkel has a few time jumps from past to future, and vice versa, that would be easy to clear up with the hardcopy of the book, but were a little confusing with the audiobook.

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  • Jonathan Beyrak Lev
  • 15-06-19

Wonderful book, terrible narrator

The real life story is fascinating. The writing is absorbing. The maths is interesting. The narrator has serious problems. He puts the stress and intonation on the wrong syllables and in general his delivery is unnatural. He does not know, and has not been told by anyone involved in this production, that the “t” in “Fermat” is silent. He also does not know, and has not been told, how to pronounce “archipelago.” I can barely listen to this level of sloppiness. Someone should have known better.

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  • Jarod Yates
  • 05-03-18

Now I WANT to do math!

Remarkable story spiced with tantalizing mathematical truths. There’s only a few chapters which delve into the more abstract concepts required to understand the Langlands program.
The trials the author went through to get where he is at today is inspiring beyond measure. He has planted a seed of love for math inside this “Miracle-Grow” book such that by the time you’re finished, hopefully that seed will have sprouted in you as well.