Niels Abel: Bread and Beer


[The Norwegian mathematician Niels Abel] proved that equations of the fifth order cannot generally be solved. If the exact meaning of this sentence baffles you, read 'Abel's Proof'. It gives a clear exposition of the underlying mathematics and eloquently discusses the lives of mathematicians up to Abel's time.

"Indeed, Peter Pesic's tale of how maths came to be is as exciting as any fiction... He concludes with a cryptic page from one of Abel's notebooks which, riddled with drawings, writings and numbers, is reminiscent of Da Vinci's own scribblings. In the midst of the equations is scrawled a prayer: 'Our Father who art in Heaven, give me bread and beer. Listen for once.'"

[Euler's number (e = 2.71828...) is ofter remembered using a mnemonic sentence whose words' lengths correspond to the digits: "I'm forming a mnemonic to remember a function in analysis..." The version for Pi (3.14159...)? "How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics..."]

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