Book Review

Patrick Carney (
Mon, 21 Dec 98 5:14:07 EST

I appologize to those of you who were in more than one of the groups to which
this is addressed for I fear you will get multiple copies. But I did not want
to leave anyone out.

I am aware that the book "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers" by Paul Hoffman has
been mentioned on these hallowed pixels before, but I wanted to add to the
enthusiasm of others by mentioning that I received it as a Christmas gift and
took it with me to read on flights to IN and back this weekend. I was
surprised that a book about Paul Erdos would be such amazingly light reading.
Just reading between nap on the planes, I finished 187 pages in the 24 hours
I was away from NJ. It not only made the time go by quickly, but my interest
must have been evident because a young couple next to me wanted to know what
the book was. They did not know of Erdos and so I started telling stories
about him and shared some of the pictures in the book -- in particular the
one with Erdos and Hank Aaron and the story Ron Gould shared with us about it
at DREI98. These stories seemed to get the attention of the gentleman sitting
in front of me (you know how crowded these planes are!) and so he began to
listen. If I can get that much interest among total strangers on a plane, I
can't wait to get back to school and shaare it with the students (OK, maybe I
CAN wait for a while to get back to school, but I am anxious to share it with
my kids -- maybe that is why I am sharing it with you all at 5 a.m. on a day
I could sleep in! :-) ).

It was also very humbling to read the names of over a half-dozen people (so
far) who are mentioned in the book and who I have come to meet due to my
associations at Dimacs. It made me very appreciative of the rare
opportunities we have there.

In addition to it being a biography of Erdos, it is filled with mathematical
antecdotes as well as what is basically a layman's explanation of many of the
famous problems in math. Again, a number of these are taught in the various
Dimacs programs.

I am tempted to finish it, but am trying to overcome that so that I have it
for my trip to visit my mother in FL. If any of you want to make time fly
while you fly, I recommend it highly. It is neither profound nor scholarly,
but does show many mathematicians in a very human light interspersed with
Steiner Points, TSP, etc.

Take care and my all of you enjoy whatever holidays you happen to celebrate
at this time of year.

As ever,
Bro. Patrick Carney