This book goes from A to Z. The letter A stands for Abel, the great Norwegian mathematician, here involved in an elliptic thriller about a fundamental theorem of mathematics, while the letter Z refers to Absolute Zero, the ultimate and lowest temperature limit, - 273,15 degrees Celsius, a value that is tremendously cooler than the most remote corner of the Universe: the race to reach this final outpost of coldness is not yet complete, but, similarly to the history books of polar explorations at the beginning of the 20th century, its pages record successes, failures, fierce rivalries and tragic desperations.
In between the A and the Z, the other letters of the alphabet are similar to the various stages of a very fascinating journey along the paths of science, a journey in the company of a very unique set of characters as eccentric and peculiar as those in Ulysses by James Joyce: the French astronomer who lost everything, even his mind, to chase the transits of Venus; the caustic Austrian scientist who, perfectly at ease with both the laws of psychoanalysis and quantum mechanics, revealed the hidden secrets of dreams and the periodic table of chemical elements; the young Indian astrophysicist who was the first to understand how a star dies, suffering the ferocious opposition of his mentor for this discovery. Or the Hungarian physicist who struggled with his melancholy in the shadows of the desert of Los Alamos; or the French scholar who was forced to hide her femininity behind a false identity so as to publish fundamental theorems on prime numbers. And so on and so forth.
Twenty-six stories, which reveal the most authentic atmosphere of science and the lives of some of its main players: each story can be read in quite a short period of time -- basically the time it takes to get on and off the train between two metro stations. Largely independent from one another, these twenty-six stories make the book a harmonious polyphony of several voices: the reader can invent his/her own very personal order for the chapters simply by ordering the sequence of letters differently. For an elementary law of Mathematics, this can give rise to an astronomically large number of possible books -- all the same, but - then again - all different. This book is therefore the ideal companion for an infinite number of real or metaphoric journeys.
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