(c) 2005-2007 Oliver Bonten
While in reality there is no "wild number problem" (and certainly no "Beauregard"), I think this book quite accurately describes what makes a mathematician go. And probably it contains a lot of truth about academic life, though the story takes place in the U.S., and I've no firsthand experience with universities there.
A mathematician at the end of what is generally thought to be the most creative phase of a mathematicians life, hasn't had any major breakthroughs or groundbreaking work so far, and is slowly coping with the fact that he will probably remain part of the legion of mediocre researchers, when, by chance, he suddenly has an insight how to solve the "wild number problem", an open issue that puzzled generations of mathematicians before.
While he is working on the proof, his best friends try to set him up with a friend of theirs who was recently divorced, but their attempts fail because he is too absorbed in his work. When he finally submits his proof to his mentor, a famous guy approaching, all hell breaks loose until - and after - a brilliant young colleague checks the proof.
The characters are quite realistic. The wise old man at the department, the eager young researcher, the mentally deranged middle age student - I'm sure you can find all of them at a real department of mathematics. Especially the mentally deranged middle aged student. Also, the moment where he has his great insight is described quite realistically - in all its absurdity and ordinarity. Great ideas come while shaving, sitting on the toilet, or dusting the room. The only bit of wishful thinking is the existence of Betty Lane - a woman who really is willing to put up with one of those weirdos without being one of them herself. That's too gross.
All in all, a very funny book.
Mehr Romane über Mathematik
Buch: the wild numbers
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