At the earliest age, children around the world ask questions about the nature of existence and how we came to be here. Simon Singh's third and most ambitious work of popular science takes us on a journey through the ages, as man's sense of his own importance in the universe shrank ever smaller and his idea of time stretched from a few thousand to around fifteen billion years.
What makes numbers interesting? The subtitle of this beautiful book is the motivation, map, and message of its 188-page journey from zero to infinity. With concise insight, Reid takes the digits from 0 to 9 as chapter titles and starting points of voyages into the history and deep concepts of modern mathematics.
Do you love football, marvel at Beckham's perfect swerving free kicks and find formations fascinating? Or do you love science, and want to find out how aerodynamics affects a ball in flight and discover the insights statistical analysis of real-life data can give?
An unnamed girl in an unnamed, but contemporary, European city enters a rather gloomy old building, reading its address from a crumpled piece of paper. Inside, being given preference over a dozen people sitting in a waiting room, she is ushered into the office of Albert Einstein. "You said that time doesn't exist, so I took the liberty of coming to see you," she says. "You did the right thing," he replies. Thus a conversation ensues that spans all the 176 pages of this book.
One of the things I enjoy most about biographies of mathematicians is the presentation of mathematics as a very human endeavour. Despite the sometimes abstract nature of mathematics, we see in this biography of Kurt Gödel that it is a very human activity pursued by people within a deeply connected community, but each with their own vision of truth.
This book starts gently enough, easing us in with the unarguable 2+2 = 4. But don't let this lull you into a misplaced sense of comfort; the ride is going to get very unsettling indeed. Martínez writes with an easy-reading clarity to tackle some of the simplest, but no less profoundly important, assumptions of mathematics. We hear how over the recent history of mathematics seemingly innocuous concepts were as controversial as genetic modification or animal testing are nowadays.
Edward Burger and Michael Starbird are both Professors of mathematics and have won numerous teaching and writing awards for their work. Burger has even performed stand-up comedy in night-clubs and is no stranger to appearing on television and radio broadcasts. In their company the reader is clearly in safe hands and these achievements are reflected in the quality of the book. The text is also written with a charm that is lamentably rare in maths literature.