Tag Archives: simon singh

The Code Book by Simon Singh

The Code Book by Simon Singh: A history of cryptography from ancient Egypt through quantum computing. My favorite parts were about WWII, with Turing and the Navajo Codetalkers. Some parts were a touch slow – cryptography isn’t nearly as thrilling as the activities associated with it – but by and large it was an informative read. My only real complaint was how long it took me to read. Though Singh’s text was thorough and readable as ever, it took me nearly a month to finish. I think I just wasn’t in the right mood for a math book.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh: Most people are familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem which describes a right triangle: a^2 + b^2 = c^2. However, what you may not know is that Pierre Fermat claimed back in the 1600s to be able to prove that a^n + b^n = c^n has no whole number solutions for n > 2. Trial and error suggests this to be true, but for over 350 years, no one could prove it. This is the story of the equation and those who worked towards the eventual solution in the early 1990s, from Pythagoras through Andrew Wiles, who published the final proof. His proof is complicated enough that I suspect Fermat’s proof was flawed, but it makes for a surprisingly engrossing read all the same. There are tons of names and personal stories in this book, and though they often feel tangential, every single person discussed has great bearing in one way or another on the solving of Fermat’s Last Theorem. One doesn’t usually equate mathematics with drama or suspense, but both are present here. Definitely recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in math or history.

Note: The UK version of this book, which I have, is titled Fermat’s Last Theorem. The American version is called Fermat’s Enigma. There is also another book called Fermat’s Last Theorem which was written by Amir D. Aczel. Confusion abounds.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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