The Music of the Primes
By Marcus du Sautoy
Review by Alysa (Mathematics)
When reading Maths books, I think it’s important to distinguish between books about Maths or the history of Maths, and books where you actually get to learn and do Maths. You should try to have a good balance of both types on your personal statement. As you can tell The Music of the Primes is one of the books about the history of Maths.
About 160 years ago, Bernhard Riemann came up with a hypothesis about the distribution of prime numbers, which is still unproven to this day. In The Music of the Primes, Marcus du Sautoy takes you through history as various mathematical powerhouses all tried to solve this famous problem.
This theorem is important in areas of both pure and applied Maths, as many proofs of the last century rely on the Riemann Hypothesis being true and prime numbers have applications in cryptography or quantum computers. Marcus du Sautoy does a great job of weaving these links into the book.
I think it’s really easy as a young mathematician to decide you only like one side of maths and neglect the other but school maths does not give you enough to go on. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and this book helped me appreciate applied maths when I read it in Year 12. Before then I immaturely decided I would specialise in pure maths without really considering what applied maths would be like at university.
I know us mathematicians don’t generally have to do much reading of books so hopefully it will be nice to hear that the book is written in a conversational, digestible way that makes it a fairly light read – I read it on holiday. When I was finding books for my personal statement, the books “about maths” were all very readable and were more for personal interest. When looking at the other kind of maths books, I would recommend sitting at a desk and working through the problems presented and any exercises at the ends of chapters.
The Music of the Primes by Marcus du Sautoy