Saturday, August 31, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 23 review

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Q.E.D., vol. 23, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(The top panel shows all of the passengers on the boat, all of whom have alibis.)

Raia- (Liar, Great Magazine, 2005). Touma's parents are currently on vacation in Taiwan, so his younger sister, Yuu, tricks both Kana and Sou into flying there to have a kind of family reunion. Unfortunately, earlier in the day, Mr. Touma was inspired by a giant Buddha statue, so he and his wife decided to fly to Okinawa to look at other big Buddha statues. All the other flights out are booked and Yuu had impetuously cancelled her hotel room and now the hotels are all full. By chance, they encounter Leon Garret, a former MIT student and president of his own IT company. Leon invites them on his yacht, but Touma would rather avoid him because of his reputation as "Leon the Liar". The yacht is going to Okinawa, and the other passengers include a former teacher and his wife, an alcoholic former girlfriend and her new boyfriend, Leon's business partner, and the two guys piloting the ship. That night, a storm whips up and in the morning Leon is found dead with a knife in his stomach. The teacher's daughter committed suicide over Leon, the alcoholic ex-girlfriend still hates him, and the partner was cheated by Leon in a business deal, so they all have motives.

(Leon prepares for the next day's "big surprise".)

The police impound the boat and interrogate the passengers. Yuu and Kana are desperate to meet up with Mr. and Mrs. Touma, so Sou is forced to solve the crime for everyone. Questions: Since everyone has alibis, who is lying? What was the big surprise that Leon promised Touma for the next day? Why did the corpse have 5 separate cuts on the upper torso? Where did the murder weapon go? Why did the teacher take the girlfriend's brooch from the floor where it fell, and why did the new boyfriend return it to her the next day?

No science. We do get to see Sou's parents a little bit, but they're demonstrated to be very flighty and capricious, and we never fully see their faces. When Sou, Yuu and Kana make it to Okinawa, the two adults have already left for some other location. They give Kana a message saying that the Earth is big, so they'll meet up sometime in the future. Sou and Yuu both say that their cousin is even worse, but that he's not living in Japan right now.

(Kana dares Touma to explain Riemann's Hypothesis to her so she can understand it; he fails.)

Anaza- Wa-rudo (Another World, Great Magazine, 2005). 2 years ago: Loki and Touma are both lounging outside the math building when Prof. Kenneth Refla comes up and tells them to look forward to a presentation he plans on giving in 2 years. Back in the present, Loki is driving Kana and Touma from the airport to MIT. Touma's trying to explain what Refla's research is about - proving the Riemann Hypothesis - and Kana remains unimpressed until Loki adds that whoever proves or disproves it mathematically will win a $1 million prize purse. (The Riemann Hypothesis states that the pattern behind prime numbers is predictable. It has remained unsolved since Bernhard Riemann first presented it in 1859. It's one of 7 modern math challenges that the Clay Mathematics Institute has prizes for.) When they get to the lecture hall, though, the other attendees scoff at them. Seems that Refla disappeared a couple months ago, and he's reported to be dead.

(Refla's painting of "The King in Despair".)

Touma and Loki interview Refla's landlord, wife, daughter and friends, and discover that he left behind a short poem and 4 paintings. Each painting represents a different line of the poem, but no one knows who has the 4th painting or what had led up to his death. They visit a graveyard, and Refla's tombstone has a strange tile mosaic around the outer edge, and just the date 1943. Questions: Who has the 4th painting? What does the poem mean? Is the order of the paintings important compared to the order of the lines in the poem? The poem implies that Refla failed to crack the Riemann Hypothesis and that's why he committed suicide - but is that actually the case?

The entire chapter is dedicated to describing RH, prime numbers, and the impact cracking the hypothesis would have (the world's software security routines are based on the apparent randomness of prime numbers). There's a brief mention of why showing that all known zeta solutions are zero using a computer is not the same thing as having a real proof, and we're told that the 1974 transmission of data by Aricibo to outer space is a hint to solving the mystery.

Comments: I prefer the science stories over the plain mysteries, so the entire "Another World" chapter is a lot of fun for me. It's unlikely that anyone is going to crack RH any time soon, but it's still interesting to speculate over it. And, I learned about the Skewes' Number, which I hadn't heard about before, so that just adds to the appeal. Recommended.

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