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20 percent History and geography . . 10 percent Science . . . . . . . . . 7 percent Religion . . . . . . . . 7 percent THE SOIL, THE CROP 25 By contrast, it is reported (by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy in The Public School Phenomenon) that the great English boys’ schools of 1840 allocated 75−80 percent of teaching time—40 hours a week—to classics. Quickborn had no gymnasium and Riemann did not begin his proper schooling until age 14, four years into the gymnasium course. This was in Hanover, the kingdom’s capital city, 80 miles from Quickborn.

I can’t explain the importance of e without going into calculus, though, and I have sworn a solemn oath to explain the Riemann Hypothesis with the utter minimum of calculus. I am, therefore, just going to beg you to take on faith that e is a really, really important number, and that no other exponential function can hold a candle to this one, the function eN. ) The main principle remains, of course. The left-hand columns—the arguments—go up by adding 1 each time. As they do so, the right-hand columns—the values—are multiplied by e each time.

If y is 8 times x, what is x in terms of y? It’s y ⁄ 8, of course. Division is the inverse of multiplication. There’s a thing you like to do called squaring numbers, where you multiply a number by itself? OK, what is the inverse? If y = x2, what is x equal to, in terms of y? Well, it’s the square root of y. If you know a bit of calculus, you know there’s a process called “differentiation,” that you can use to turn a function f into an- PRIME OBSESSION 42 other function g that will tell you the instantaneous rate of change of f at any argument.

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