Posted 20 hours ago

Alex's Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics

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All the people in this book have been treated as creative artists and their work has been explored with childlike wonder. As the book progresses, so does the abstract nature of the subject matter, and the concept of pi provides the perfect bridge between numeracy and philosophy, which had already emerged with the chapter on zero. Mathematicians have explored ever more abstract worlds and geometries, floating in dimensions that may or may not exist and finding symmetries and patterns in hard-to-imagine shapes. Along the way, he relates amusing stories involving eccentric people and their often mundane means--origami, sponges, crochet--of giving physical shape to the downright unfathomable.

The slide rule exposed my lack of dexterity, which I blame for a lifelong preference for the directionally correct over pinpoint accuracy. Instead, he effortlessly reveals the truth of just how fascinating, how human, how intensely interesting this subject (and its history) really is. I'm an engineer, so I might be slightly better positioned to understand this text, but the format and language of the book assumes nothing of the reader (without being condescending) and explains every concept in a way that even a lay person will be able to follow.They have no need to count lots of things and, indeed, see counting endlessly as a ludicrous activity.

He begins with a systematic exposition of the idea of numbers and the need for them and progresses steadily at a really comfortable pace to cover everything from shepherds using a hybrid base of numbers for counting their sheep to humans understanding incredibly weird and abstract concepts in mathematics with the help of crochet! If nothing, you should read this book to learn about an encyclopedia of sequences (that also converts them into music), to see the unbelievable impact of the invention of the electronic calculator, to imagine a world of rivalries between human equation solvers and where human calculators would indulge in math duels! If you're in the former camp, it might be difficult to understand how anyone could be interested or impassioned by something so seemingly dry and difficult. At this point, the book also irritated my psoriasis, as it reminded me of two of my education failures: (1) the slide rule; and (2) logarithms. He has organized the book in the way that allows him to be chronological while also taking diversions from time to time to connect with what's happening now in the field of mathematics.It’s my journey as I travel around the world meeting characters who bring mathematical ideas to life.

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