Monday, June 16, 2014

Love & Math

 Review of "Love & Math"

The story “Love & Math” is about a young high school boy from the Soviet Union who has a love for quantum physics.  After being persuaded by Evgeny Evgenievich to pursue a love for mathematics, this story embarks on Edward Frenkel’s journey of finding his love for math. 
 After only speaking with Evgeny Evgenievich for one meeting, Frenkel was already inspired by the reading Evgenievich asked him to do.  He found his interest in math almost immediately.  It was then that he decided to pursue his education by applying to Moscow University.  During this time, the Soviet Union did not treat Jews fairly.  Frenkel had come from a Russian-Jewish background.  After submitting his application to Moscow University, he was told that he would have no way of getting in because of his nationality.  He decided to give it a try anyway and take the administered exams that needed to be passed in order to get into Mekh-Mat (the school of mathematics).  After succeeding with his written mathematics exam and getting all of his answers correct he was later harassed during his oral mathematics exam and decided to withdraw his application.  He ended up studying applied mathematics at Kerosinka.  Kerosinka could not offer all that was available at Moscow University and so Frenkel snuck into the university to attend lectures.  He sat in on a famous mathematician Kirillov who asked him for help working on a problem.  He connected with a guy Fuch who gave him an article to read dealing with braid groups.  He was able to solve the problem correctly and later presented his findings at a well known lecture ran by Gelfand.  He published his first research in Gelfand’s journal, “Functional Analysis and Applications.”  He then worked on a second problem given to him by Feigin and Fuch.  Feigin went on to be Frenkel’s mentor.  With  Feigin, he researched Kac-Moody algebra where he wrote a journal of his results that was published within a year into Russian Mathematical Survey’s.  While doing all of this side mathematical research and maintaining the position at the top of his class, he also worked with his advisor from Kerosinka, Yakov Isaevich, on three projects in urology.  He referred to applied math as his spouse, while pure math was his secret lover.  After help from Yakov, Frenkel was able to get a job as his assistant at Kerosinka. 
 Frenkel then received a letter from Harvard University asking him to accept the Harvard Prize fellowship.  He spoke at many seminars about his work with Kac-Moody algebra.  He was then invited to attend Harvard to obtain his Ph.D, which was not something he was able to get back in Russia.  Frenkel obtained his Ph.D in one year and wrote his theses on Langland’s Dual Groups.  After receiving a grant, where he contributed most of his work, to study the link between Langland’s Problem and quantum physics, he then decided to portray his love of math in the form of a movie.  The screenplay was first published as a book, “The Two-Body Problem.”  His movie creates a sort of formula for love that is kept secret by being tattooed on the mathematician’s wife. 
 I enjoyed reading this book overall.  I found some of the mathematical concepts portrayed in it to be sort of difficult to follow but at the very beginning of the book, Frenkel says that this book will make you want to become a mathematician and I could definitely feel that throughout the reading.  I think the journey Frenkel went through to do what he loves is very inspiring to read.  I also found in very interesting how he was able to connect his first love of physics with his new love, math.  It just goes to show you how many connections there are between subjects and even within the subject of math itself.  Overall, it was a pretty fun and easy read. 


  1. Good review, with enough background on the author to let you know where he's coming from. I'd like to see you either add a little content, or talk about an audience for the book. (You got interested in math, but you're already a math major. Would a non-math person get that, even if you found the math difficult?)

    1. I guess what I meant by more interested in math... was that I became more interested in how one became a mathematician. I think a non-math person would also enjoy this book even though some of the math was difficult. The story is more about the journey and the different connections within math rather than working out problems themselves. So you could have almost no advanced mathematical background or even no interest in math and I think this book would still draw your attention.

      I think the audience for this book would be anyone. It would be especially great for those people who claim they are not a "math person." The reading really engages you and the story of someone following there passion can relate to anyone.

    2. Makes sense! And that's a good distinction.