PI in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being

Overview

John D. Barrow's Pi in the Sky is a profound ? and profoundly different ? exploration of the world of mathematics: where it comes from, what it is, and where it's going to take us if we follow it to the limit in our search for the ultimate meaning of the universe. Barrow begins by investigating whether math is a purely human invention inspired by our practical needs. Or is it something inherent in nature waiting to be discovered?

In answering these questions, Barrow provides a ...

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Overview

John D. Barrow's Pi in the Sky is a profound — and profoundly different — exploration of the world of mathematics: where it comes from, what it is, and where it's going to take us if we follow it to the limit in our search for the ultimate meaning of the universe. Barrow begins by investigating whether math is a purely human invention inspired by our practical needs. Or is it something inherent in nature waiting to be discovered?

In answering these questions, Barrow provides a bridge between the usually irreconcilable worlds of mathematics and theology. Along the way, he treats us to a history of counting all over the world, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to logical friction, from number mysticism to Marxist mathematics. And he introduces us to a host of peculiar individuals who have thought some of the deepest and strangest thoughts that human minds have ever thought, from Lao-Tse to Robert Pirsig, Charles Darwin, and Umberto Eco. Barrow thus provides the historical framework and the intellectual tools necessary to an understanding of some of today's weightiest mathematical concepts.

Our understanding of the physical world is built on mathematics, but what exactly is mathematics? Barrow explores this tantalizing question in this lively and illuminating study of the origins and nature of math. Along the way we meet Pythagoras and his "cult of numbers, " Galileo and Descartes, Einstein and Bertrand Russell. Line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A history of--and reflection upon--the role of mathematics in the human enterprise. Oct.
Booknews
Famous cosmologist and prolific author John Barrow explores the origin and nature of mathematics and explains the important implications of the numerous unanswered questions in our search for a theory of everything. He weaves together a history of math that illuminates its far-reaching capabilities and its intrinsic limitations, its proven and unproven theories, and its pervasive impact on the way people think and live. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316082594
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/19/1993
  • Edition description: 1st Paperback Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author


About the Author:
John D. Barrow is Professor in the Astronomy Centre of the University of Sussex. His is the author of several highly acclaimed volumes on the philosophy of science, including most recently Theories of Everything, which Publishers Weekly hailed as "a mind-boggling intellectual adventure."

University of Sussex

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Table of Contents

1 From mystery to history 1
A mystery within an enigma 1
Illusions of certainty 2
The secret society 6
Non-euclideanism 8
Logics - To Be or Not To Be 15
The Rashomon effect 19
The analogy that never breaks down? 21
Tinkling symbols 23
Thinking about thinking 24
2 The Counter Culture 26
By the pricking of my thumbs 26
The bare bones of history 28
Creation or evolution 33
The ordinals versus the cardinals 36
Counting without counting 41
Fingers and toes 45
Baser methods 49
Counting with base 2 51
The neo-2 system of counting 56
Counting in fives 60
What's so special about sixty? 64
The spread of the decimal system 68
The dance of the seven veils 72
Ritual geometry 73
The place-value system and the invention of zero 81
A final accounting 101
3 With form but void 106
Numerology 106
The very opposite 108
Hilbert's scheme 112
Kurt Godel 117
More surprises 124
Thinking by numbers 127
Bourbachique mathematique 129
Arithmetic in chaos 134
Science friction 137
Mathematicians off form 140
4 The mothers of inventionism 147
Mind from matter 147
Shadowlands 149
Trap-door functions 150
Mathematical creation 154
Marxist mathematics 156
Complexity and simplicity 159
Maths as psychology 165
Pre-established mental harmony? 171
Self-discovery 176
5 Intuitionism: the immaculate construction 178
Mathematicians from outer space 178
Ramanujan 181
Intuitionism and three-valued logic 185
A very peculiar practice 188
A closer look at Brouwer 192
What is 'intuition'? 196
The tragedy of Cantor and Kronecker 198
Cantor and infinity 205
The comedy of Hilbert and Brouwer 216
The Four-Colour Conjecture 227
Transhuman mathematics 234
New-age mathematics 236
Paradigms 243
Computability, compressibility, and utility 245
6 Platonic heavens above and within 249
The growth of abstraction 249
Footsteps through Plato's footnotes 251
The platonic world of mathematics 258
Far away and long ago 265
The presence of the past 268
The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics 270
Difficulties with platonic relationships 272
Seance or science? 273
Revel without a cause 276
A computer ontological argument 280
A speculative anthropic interpretation of mathematics 284
Maths and mysticism 292
Supernatural numbers? 294
Further reading 298
Index 311
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