PaulErdos ? likedtotalkaboutTheBook,inwhichGodmaintainstheperfect proofsformathematicaltheorems,followingthedictumofG. H. Hardythat there is no permanent place for ugly mathematics. Erdos ? also said that you need not believe in God but, as a mathematician, you should believe in The Book. A few years ago, we suggested to him to write up a ?rst (and very modest) approximation to The Book. He was enthusiastic about the idea and, characteristically, went to work immediately, ?lling page after page with his suggestions. Our book was supposed to appear in March 1998 as a present to Erdos ? ' 85th birthday. With Paul's unfortunate death in the summer of 1996, he is not listed as a co-author. Instead this book is dedicated to his memory. ? Paul Erdos We have no de?nition or characterization of what constitutes a proof from The Book: all we offer here is the examples that we have selected, h- ing that our readers will share our enthusiasm about brilliant ideas, clever insights and wonderful observations. We also hope that our readers will enjoy this despite the imperfections of our exposition. The selection is to a ? great extent in?uencedby Paul Erdos himself. A largenumberof the topics were suggested by him, and many of the proofs trace directly back to him, or were initiated by his supreme insight in asking the right question or in makingthe rightconjecture. So to a largeextentthisbookre?ectstheviews of Paul Erdos ? as to what should be considered a proof from The Book.
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