A Brief History of Infinity

A Brief History of Infinity

by Brian Clegg

Infinity is a concept that fascinates everyone from a seven-year-old child to a maths professor. An exploration of the most mind-boggling feature of maths and physics, this work examines amazing paradoxes and looks at many features of this fascinating concept.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Science
  • Rating: 3.52
  • Pages: 255
  • Publish Date: September 12th 2003 by Robinson Publishing
  • Isbn10: 1841196509
  • Isbn13: 9781841196503

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While Brian Clegg is not the most awe inspiring and beautiful science writer out there, he is an under-appreciated work-horse kind of writer that consistently produces books that are fun, fascinating and accessible. The layman gets an interesting introduction to the material and the professional find out many little interesting historical facts and stories along the way.

Secondly, as with English, mathematics is very much grounded in philosophy and history, and it is a subject that is open to deep, almost spiritual interpretation. There are many famous follies and feuds in the history of mathematics, and that is one of the reasons I enjoy learning about it so much. Infinity is one of the mathematical concepts most central to those feuds. Its one of the areas where math rubs up against the spiritual realmfor, as some mathematicians and philosophers have wondered, what is infinity if not God or some kind of greater being? In A Brief History of Infinity, Brian Clegg does just that, following the classical, somewhat Eurocentric development of math from Greece to Rome, then zig-zagging down to the Middle East and India before flying back to Britain, France, and Germany. Clegg lays the ground well for what will come in later chapters, all the while emphasizing the reluctance of the Greek philosophers to abandon the solidity of numbers found in the real world. Rather, think of it like this: if you are not particularly mathematical and read this book, you will gain a wealth of knowledge. If you are particularly mathematical, then depending on how much you like the history of math, you might already be familiar with most of these anecdotes. So I would recommend A Brief History of Infinity to most peopleperhaps not with the same zeal that I do Charles Seifes Zero, but with a similar hope in mind. Mathematics is a subject with a long and storied past, one that is fun to explore by looking at the humans who progressedor regressedthroughout the centuries. A Brief History of Infinity is a book in this mould.

But when a complete maths fool such as myself enjoys a book like this then there has to be something going for it.

And most annoyingly, mathematical concepts are so loosely used that would make serious mathematicians cringe - among many other things, calling irrational numbers "irrational fractions" was maddening.

By first exploring the philosophical and religious approaches through the millennia toward infinity, Mr. Clegg provided a surprisingly well-rounded view of humanity's quest to grasp the ungraspable.

This makes the book very hard to read.

Brian has also written regular columns, features and reviews for numerous publications, including Nature, The Guardian, PC Week, Computer Weekly, Personal Computer World, The Observer, Innovative Leader, Professional Manager, BBC History, Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful.