Mathematics is like life, you can’t expect to go forward if you’re not prepare to expose yourself to chance, risk, even danger. It is an idea that appeals to Cédric Villani, mathematician and author of “The Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure”.
Mathematics is also a work of reasoning and evolution of thinking, of logical deduction and perhaps a bit of sleuthing. In Villani’s words “Appreciating a theorem in mathematics is like watching an episode of Columbo, the line of reasoning by which the detective solves the mystery is more important than the identity of the murderer.”
Villani was awarded the Field medal for his work on Landau Damping, a spontaneous phenomenon of stabilization in plasmas, that is a return to equilibrium without any increase in entropy. This is in contrast to the mechanism described by Ludwig Boltzmann which expressed the statistical motion of entropy. With his famous now, equation, Boltzmann proved that moving from an initial arbitrarily fixed state, over reasonable time spans in the future, entropy can only increase.
Birth of a Theorem is not just a popular maths book. It is a personal and exhausting journey, an obsession, of a brilliant, passionate and eccentric mathematician.