Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Oxford Murders

I am not much of a crime novel person, though I've read some Agatha Christie in my time, but what I've read about this novel intrigued me. There was this crime novel that had something to do with mathematics. Mathematics?! This was something to raise one's eyebrows.
It is a common knowledge that the most hated school subject of all times is mathematics. People dread it, want nothing to do with it, scare their preschool children with stories about how difficult and beyond understanding it is for ordinary humans. In my experience, hatred of mathematics is a universal thing that goes through people and nations. The common misconception lead to prejudice, not only about the science itself (OK, we can discuss here how mathematics is not even a science, but let's leave that for some other post), but about scientists that practice it as well. Mathematicians are widely considered as freaks of nature, unpopular and antisocial people living within their own twisted minds.
It is no wonder I was intrigued to read about a novel, translated in my country (meaning that it must be fairly popular somewhere else), with a plot that included something cool like a mystery with something extremely uncool like maths and mathematicians. The intricacy was even greater when one considers my own career choice.
The book is actually not bad for a crime novel (no offence here, I am a fantasy fan): it's light, clever and intriguing. Lots of twists, turns and one very unexpected ending. It was an enjoyable experience for me as, I presume, it has been for many other readers. What makes this book truly great in my eyes is that it managed to make mathematics sound cool. Mathematicians too.
You might have suspected: the writer IS a mathematician!

3 comments:

Agustin said...

Hehehe! The writer is a doctor in mathematics. I made a comment in the next entry about a film called Moebius, in which a subway train is lost in our subway network because it reached "infinite connectivity", it's interesting, it discusses some mathematical theory from a simple point of view (when a doctor in mathematics tries to explain the owner of the subway company why some of his property is lost within his own network). Perhaps you'll find it interesting ;-)

Kisses,
Agustín

Agustin said...

As I told you in my comment to the next entry, I started to read this novel and I didn't like much the fact that the protagonist managed to seduce a female tennis player after a few games, and even "chats up" other female characters in the book. Mathematicians are seen as geeks with poor social skills so the abilities of this young mathematician who protagonizes this novel requires a bit of "suspension of disbelief", perhaps writers write about things the'll never do and give their characters abilities they may never possess. And I thought, well, that's perfect, what's the point of making a novel and not making the characters do what the author wishes ;-).

I have to write in my web log myself, hahahaha. In fact, as I had to change the structure of my site due to a hacker attack, I'm wondering if I should "unlink" my web site and my web log, that is, not make the weblog a part of my site if I continue to use Blogger.com, or implement my own comment-writing system for a blog inside my web site ;-).

Kisses,
Agustín

Agustin said...

As for hatred for mathematics, I think it's something that happens in every country. In my own country, students hate it because it's abstract and don't see the "real life" applications of, for example, division of polynomials. Let me tell you, readers of this blog, that the process that delivers this message to your screen involves a division of polynomials. There goes some "real life application" of it ;-). I will surely not spread stories of how difficult and beyond understanding mathematics is ;-), having studied quite a bit myself ;-).

Kisses,
Agustín