Even the most math-phobic have nothing to fear in the latest from English science writer Clegg… lighthearted yet far-reaching look at the history of numbers and how we use them
Have you ever wondered what humans did before numbers existed? How they organized their lives, traded goods, or kept track of their treasures? What would your life be like without them?
Numbers began as simple representations of everyday things, but mathematics rapidly took on a life of its own, occupying a parallel virtual world. In Are Numbers Real? Brian Clegg explores the way that maths has become more and more detached from reality, yet despite this is driving the development of modern physics.
From devising a new counting system based on goats, through the weird and wonderful mathematics of imaginary numbers and infinity to the debate over whether mathematics has too much influence on the direction of science, this fascinating and accessible book opens the reader's eyes to the hidden reality of the strange yet familiar world of numbers.
"In "Are Numbers Real "Clegg tackles a very deep question in his usual way; with clarity, wit and a wonderfully clear narrative writing style. For me, numbers are like natural language: they obviously don t exist in a physical sense you cannot trip over the number '2' in the street yet numbers are at the heart of understanding the universe. Clegg covers a wide variety of subjects to seek out the truth of the matter in an engaging and hugely accessible way. I personally couldn't put it down, and as an active researcher in the field itself, it has provided me with some very real (?) food for thought." Dr. Peet Morris. University of Oxford.
"Brian Clegg's "Are Numbers Real?" Is a compact, very readable, and highly entertaining history of the development and use of mathematics to answer the important practical questions involved in advancing civilization... Even for the reader not versed in the vector calculus used in the statement of Maxwell s Laws, simply seeing the four Laws mathematically stated will induce (certainly the "mot juste" here) the feeling that this is the way the Universe is meant to be understood. And that sense of wonder permeates the entire book...a superb introduction to mathematics, science, and that branch of philosophy devoted to exploring the nature of reality." Dr. James Stein, Professor of Mathematics at CSULB.
You can read an article on Isaac Asimov, mathematics and the collapse of empire, inspired by Are Numbers Real? at the St Martin's Press website.
Listen to an interview on Are Numbers Real? with James Stein on the New Books Network:
This book is not just about numbers. It is about the whole of mathematics, its relationship to reality and its role for science. The reader goes through the whole history of mathematics and science. One might say that all of this we know already, but the author manages to find new interesting angles to approach all the main topics in the book… The description of the emergence of nothing is one of the highlights of the book. Most innovative to this reviewer, however, is Chapter 7. The name of Roger Bacon has not been completely unknown in the history of science and mathematics but normally not that much credit goes to him. Brian Clegg turns the tables here. Peeter Müürsepp, MathSciNet
Clegg covers a lot of ground in 262 pages, by turns deftly, digressively and densely. Reading his book is like following a straight line around the world: it gives us a better understanding of exactly where we are. Mike Doherty, Macleans Magazine.
Even the most math-phobic have nothing to fear in the latest from English science writer Clegg… lighthearted yet far-reaching look at the history of numbers and how we use them… an entertaining and accessible look at the numbers we take for granted every day. Publishers Weekly
Clegg is an outstanding science writer, and this book lives up to his usual standard. Highly recommended for those interested in math or science. Library Journal
Are Numbers Real? Is a superb introduction to mathematics, science, and that branch of philosophy devoted to exploring the nature of reality. Jim Stein, New Books Network
Solid as a straightforward chronology of how mathematics has developed over time, and the author adds a provocative note urging scientists to keep it in its place. Kirkus Reviews
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