The Book of Numbers by Tianxin Cai

Babylonian clay tablet showing methematics in cuniform.
A Babylonian clay tablet, notable as containing an example of Babylonian mathematics. It has number 322 in the G.A. Plimpton Collection at Columbia University. This tablet, believed to have been written about 1800 BC, has a table of four columns and 15 rows of numbers in the cuneiform script of the period.

Do you love natural numbers? You know, those little guys that start at 1 and just keep on going? Or do they start at zero?

That’s part of the point here. Author and mathematician Tianxin Cai’s modern classic, The Book of Numbers, has just been published in English. It’s a delightful exploration of the nature, history and current status of natural numbers.

Along the way he discusses the “perfect number” problem, Goldbach’s conjecture, the twin prime conjecture, the 3x + 1 problem, Waring’s problem, Catalan’s conjecture, Euler’s conjecture, Fermat’s Last Theorem, and so much more.

If you thought you were au fait with natural numbers, and their implications and applications, you’ve got a treat in store.

Natural numbers are the oldest human inventions. This volume describes their nature, laws, history and current status. The first five chapters contain not only the basics of elementary number theory for the convenience of teaching and continuity of reading, but also many latest research results. For the first time in history, the Chinese Remainder Theorem is renamed the Qin Jiushao Theorem to give him the full credit for his establishment of this famous theorem in number theory. Chapter 6 is about the fascinating congruence modulo an integer power, and Chapter 7 introduces a new problem extracted by the author from the classical problems of number theory, which is out of the combination of additive number theory and multiplicative number theory.

In this volume, there is supplementary material after each section to broaden the reader’s knowledge and imagination. It either discusses the rudiments of some aspects or introduces new topics, such as the perfect number problem, Goldbach’s conjecture, the twin prime conjecture, the 3x + 1 problem, Waring’s problem, Catalan’s conjecture, Euler’s conjecture, Fermat’s Last Theorem, etc.

Originally published in Chinese as in 2014, The Book of Numbers is written for anyone who loves natural numbers. The author is not only a mathematician, but also a literary and science writer, with more than 20 books published, many of which were translated into 20 languages.