When I first proposed the idea for this book to Princeton University Press, I had a completely different kind of project in mind. What was to be a reflection on the triumph and tyranny of numbers in modern societies became instead a work of fiction, a metamorphosis that was only possible thanks to the enthusiastic and unwavering support of Vickie Kearn, my editor at PUP.
I believed that through a fictional story I could more effectively attain my goal of introducing to a large audience certain mathematical concepts and results, some of them rather challenging and with philosophical undertones, in an entertaining way.
All I knew when I started working on the story was that it had to involve the figure of Pythagoras and his doctrines. Pythagoras wore so many fascinating hats—philosopher and mathematician, of course, but also religious leader, political and musical theorist, demigod, and miracle worker—that he appeared to me as the perfect pivotal character for a tale that would be part fact, part fiction, combining past and present, ancient beliefs and modern science, 2,500-year-old mathematics and the most recent advances in the field.
Pythagoras’ Revenge should appeal to all those who enjoy reading about mathematics and mathematicians, from high school students to PhDs. In addition, by presenting mathematical ideas weaved into a suspenseful plot, I also hope to reach those who usually shun mathematics, and to initiate them to the beauty and the power of the “queen and servant of science,” in the words of Eric Temple Bell.