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Closing the Gap

The Quest to Understand Prime Numbers

By (author) Vicky Neale
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom
Published: 12th Sep 2017
Dimensions: w 167mm h 241mm d 16mm
Weight: 452g
ISBN-10: 0198788282
ISBN-13: 9780198788287
Barcode No: 9780198788287
In 2013, a little known mathematician in his late 50s stunned the mathematical community with a breakthrough on an age-old problem about prime numbers. Since then, there has been further dramatic progress on the problem, thanks to the efforts of a large-scale online collaborative effort of a type that would have been unthinkable in mathematics a couple of decades ago, and the insight and creativity of a young mathematician at the start of his career. Prime numbers have intrigued, inspired and infuriated mathematicians for millennia. Every school student studies prime numbers and can appreciate their beauty, and yet mathematicians' difficulty with answering some seemingly simple questions about them reveals the depth and subtlety of prime numbers. Vicky Neale charts the recent progress towards proving the famous Twin Primes Conjecture, and the very different ways in which the breakthroughs have been made: a solo mathematician working in isolation and obscurity, and a large collaboration that is more public than any previous collaborative effort in mathematics and that reveals much about how mathematicians go about their work. Interleaved with this story are highlights from a significantly older tale, going back two thousand years and more, of mathematicians' efforts to comprehend the beauty and unlock the mysteries of the prime numbers.

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Closing the Gap is among the clearest popular accounts of maths I've read in a while. It's about prime numbers, as the title suggests, but it's also a master piece in the art of weaving. Apart from exploring the mathematics, the book gives an intimate description of the process of doing maths as experienced by those who do it every day, and an account of a particularly exciting, and recent, period when prime number theory made some great leaps forward. And
it's a look at a completely new way of doing mathematics: in large online collaborations that anyone can join. * Marianne Freiberger, PLUS * Closing The Gap has gone straight into my top ten books to give to interested students... The book's introduction starts with an extended analogy comparing mathematics to climbing [and] Neale sets herself up as this guide, and succeeds brilliantly. * Colin Beveridge, The Aperiodical * Her prose is clear but not patronizing, precise but accessible. The result is a very enjoyable book that can be read with profit not only by laypeople but also by mathematics students and the people who teach them. * Mark Hunacek, MAA Reviews * Closing the Gap is an excellent exposition of the study of prime numbers. Not only do we learn about the history of this area since the Greeks, but the book is the first aimed at a lay readership that provides insight into recent breakthroughs. Vicky Neale's passion in the subject is contagious and I enjoyed how she weaves together the mathematics with background on how mathematicians now work, as well as her reflections on what it is like to be a
mathematician. This book would be ideal for a curious sixth former wanting to peek ahead at what might lie around the corner if they are considering studying mathematics at a higher level. * Alex Bellos, author of Alex's Adventures in Numberland and Alex Through the Looking-Glass * Neale writes in an inviting style that draws readers into this challenging subject, convincing them that, with a little effort, they too can follow along. An enjoyable book and journey, complemented by a helpful reading list and index... Recommended. * J. Johnson, CHOICE * Written in an engaging and inclusive way, it makes a perfect read for beginners but it also picks up the pace fairly quickly, so even enthusiasts like myself are bound to enjoy it. Neale manages to take the readers on a journey to cutting edge research mathematics. * Nikoleta Kalaydzhieva and Sam Porritt, Chalkdust Magazine * For myself, I learned a lot, even about subjects I thought I knew before... it is clear from every page in the book that Neale is superb teacher. In sum, I recommend this book highly to anyone interested in mathematics, young people and teachers but also to researchers. * Michael N. Fried, Mathematical Thinking and Learning * The book is clearly and enthusiastically written and beautifully presented. * Owen Toller, The Mathematical Gazette * If you are looking for an introduction to the world of Polymath; if you are looking for the story of the Twin Primes Conjecture; if you are looking to show you friends and family what your life as a mathematician is; if you would like a bit of asymptotic mathematics explained to you plainly; if you would like a summary of Waring's problem; or if you just have a couple of hours and are looking for a nice diversion, then you have found it. * Deborah Chun, London Mathematical Society * The book features a creative structure that lends itself well to the subject matter. A curious undergraduate mathematics major should enjoy this book and learn a great deal. For mathematicians who do not specialize in number theory but who are curious about the flurry of recent activity in the field, this book provides an excellent entry point. * Stephan Ramon Garcia, Notices of the American Mathematics Society *