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The Art of the Infinite: The Pleasures of Mathematics
     

The Art of the Infinite: The Pleasures of Mathematics

by Robert Kaplan, Ellen Kaplan
 

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"This is mathematics for the soul-just the way it should be."-New Scientist

Overview

"This is mathematics for the soul-just the way it should be."-New Scientist

Editorial Reviews

Robert Kaplan can make even nullity interesting. His The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero confounded the numerically challenged and became an international bestseller. In The Art of the Infinite, he and his wife, Ellen, extend that success to the nth degree, providing a elegant, often playful excursion into the mathematics of infinity. They explain that in the Republic of Numbers, the attempt to grasp the ungraspable is an essential activity.
The Los Angeles Times
In The Art of the Infinite, Robert and Ellen Kaplan take us on a grand tour, leading us from the terra firma of the simple counting numbers (one, two, three, four and so on) through the discovery of the rationals, the irrationals, the negatives and the complex numbers that combine the ordinary, or real, numbers and the imaginaries to generate a two dimensional number-space known as the complex plane. It is here that the famous Mandelbrot set lives, that enigmatic emblem of chaos theory. — Margaret Wertheim
Publishers Weekly
While Kaplan (The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero) and his wife intend this volume to delight the numerophobic into seeing the beauty in math, the "art" they describe is hidden in a thicket of dry proofs. And yet they've written a lovely and erudite history of the subject in spite of that, one that will absorb anyone who already fancies numbers and all their possibilities. Hand-drawn diagrams accompany dense explanatory prose in this exploration of infinity, as the authors chart mathematical discoveries and great thinkers throughout history. Frequent references to luminaries from the humanities (Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Gaudi, Robert Graves) would earn this book comfortable shelving in a liberal arts library if the math weren't so devilishly hard to grasp. (A typical passage compares the way great changes happen in mathematics with the way important figures enter the action in Proust.) The authors acknowledge that even math basics can be tricky: that the product of two negatives is a positive, for instance, is a puzzle that the Kaplans say "put too many people off math forever, convinced that its dicta were arbitrary or spiteful." The authors write that "[m]athematics is permanent revolution," and indeed, some may find their heads spinning. Nevertheless, a patient reader who loves thinking about thinking will be rewarded by the book's end; by the final pages, he or she will have personally experienced, via these diagrams and problems, many of the great discoveries in mathematics. Graphs and illustrations throughout. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Kaplans are founders of the Math Circle, a school that teaches the enjoyment of mathematics, and Robert is the author of The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero. In this new book, the authors cover some of the elements of such areas as plane geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. The contents are chosen and arranged so as to lead into a concluding discussion of Georg Cantor's remarkable discoveries/inventions concerning the nature of infinity. All of this is related in a cheerful conversational tone with frequent allusions to, and quotations from, many other fields of knowledge, including literature, history, and philosophy. At times, a meander through a different discipline distracts from the main argument, but overall the Kaplans' approach makes for very enjoyable reading. This volume should appeal to a broad spectrum of readers interested in learning more about the beauty of mathematics. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This exploration of mathematics and its history involves plot and characters as well as numbers; the stories of the thinkers who were challenged by its mysteries and discovered its principles range from tragic to laugh-out-loud funny. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Robert and Ellen Kaplan clearly relish the chance to expound the beauty of their subject, in prose that performs some glorious turns. They mix weighty but approachable maths with imagery and allusion, beginning with number and heading persuasively into the unknown. As the awesome presence of those infinite infinities finally takes hold, the mind reels and hairs stand on end. This is mathematics for the soul--just the way it should be."--New Scientist

"Anyone interested in a serious introduction to mathematics will delight in this volume. The Kaplans' background in languages and linguistics inclines them to a depth of literary allusion that few writers in any technical field can match. Robert Kaplan's prior book, 'The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero,' remains, for my money, the best popular mathematics book ever written."--Margaret Wertheim, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Guides the reader through some extremely difficult mathematical ideas in ways that are both imaginative and diverting. Mathematics is often said to be the science of the infinite; the Kaplans want us to appreciate mathematics as the art of the infinite, an art which involves invention, narrative and an inexhaustible pursuit of variations on themes."--London Review of Books

"Very enjoyable reading.... Related in a cheerful conversational tone with frequent allusions to, and quotations from, many other fields of knowledge, including literature, history, and philosophy.... This volume should appeal to a broad spectrum of readers interested in learning more about the beauty of mathematics."--Library Journal

"This is a mathematics with a plot and characters, as well as diagrams and formulas. These accounts vary from tragic to laugh-out-loud funny. Those who love math won't want to miss this one, and those who would like to love it but never have should give the book a try."--School Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608198696
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
02/04/2014
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Robert and Ellen Kaplan are the founders of The Math Circle, a school, open to anyone of any age, that teaches the enjoyment of mathematics. They have been invited to lecture on mathematics teaching and the Math Circle to organizations such as the American Mathematical Society and universities in Spain and Switzerland. They live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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