In 1824, the young Niels Abel proved that algebraic equations of the fifth degree and higher are not, in general, solvable in radicals, arguably the first "impossibility proof" in modern mathematics. The story behind Abel's proof reaches back to Greek mathematics and opens a new perspective on the emergence of modern mathematics, how we understand it, and its larger significance in human thought.
Peter Pesic studied physics at Harvard and Stanford, where he received his doctorate, worked at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, taught, and was active as a pianist. Presently Tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, he has written many articles on science and music as well as four books: /Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science/ (2000), /Seeing Double: Physics, Philosophy, and Literature/ (2002), /Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability/ (2003), and /Sky in a Bottle/ (2005), all published by MIT Press.
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