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Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

Fermat's Last TheoremMath was one of my favorite subjects in school. I loved learning algebra and I enjoyed calculus in high school and college. I also take pleasure in doing logic puzzles now and then. But I can’t imagine myself doing it for a living, filling my brain with numbers day in and day out.

So it’s fascinating for me to read about people throughout history who did do this, who devoted their lives in search of mathematical truths. The author explains clearly why figuring out absolute mathematical proof is important and how it is different from scientific evidence or experiment.

Having understood that, I gained more appreciation for the quest to find proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem that lasted for more than 350 years. So I followed the narration with much interest and anticipation, from the origin of the theorem, through the various failed efforts to solve it, to Andrew Wiles’s seven-year undertaking to finally put the matter to rest. Along the way I also learned a little bit of history of mathematics, as well as some of its prominent figures.

I think the author has successfully written the mathematical parts of the narration in terms that a layperson like me can grasp. All the illustrations and appendices are a delight to read. So, although I don’t know the actual details of the calculations involved, I was able to get the gist of what the mathematicians were trying to do and therefore enjoy the story. A great read.

This book teaches you to trust your instinct. If you suddenly feel fear in a situation, it is probably because your instinct is telling you that there’s danger nearby, so you’d better act fast to avoid it.

But you shouldn’t confuse true fear and worry. If each time you walk in a dark alley, you’re scared that there might be thugs laying in wait, that’s actually worry. Worry is what you feel about what *might* happen, without any reason whatsoever. True fear is what you feel when there is actually danger to you.

Just in case you haven’t learned how to listen to your instinct, the book also gives you some danger signs to look out for when you meet a stranger, as well as some strategies to deal with dangerous or troublesome people. It is also sprinkled with many anecdotes to illustrate these situations, but most of them feel so alien to me. I don’t see how stories about celebrity stalkers and blackmailers have any kind of relevance to my life.

But, as a whole, this book is useful and informative, but I hope I’ll never be in a situation where I’ll need to apply the information I learned from this book.