The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

by Manil Suri

Narrated by Eric Jason Martin

Unabridged — 8 hours, 52 minutes

The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

by Manil Suri

Narrated by Eric Jason Martin

Unabridged — 8 hours, 52 minutes

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Our universe has multiple origin stories, from religious creation myths to the Big Bang of scientists. But if we leave those behind and start from nothing-no matter, no cosmos, not even empty space-could we create a universe using only math? Irreverent and boundlessly creative, The Big Bang of Numbers invites us to try.

In this new mathematical origin story, mathematician and novelist Manil Suri creates a natural progression of ideas needed to design our world, starting with numbers and continuing through geometry, algebra, and beyond. He reveals the secret lives of real and imaginary numbers, teaches them to play abstract games with real-world applications, discovers unexpected patterns that connect humble lifeforms to enormous galaxies, and explores mathematical underpinnings for randomness and beauty. With evocative examples ranging from multidimensional crochet to the Mona Lisa's asymmetrical smile, as well as ingenious storytelling that helps illuminate complex concepts like infinity and relativity, The Big Bang of Numbers charts a playful, inventive course to existence. Mathematics, Suri shows, might best be understood not as something we invent to explain Nature, but as the source of all creation, whose directives Nature tries to obey as best she can.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Suri (The City of Devi), a novelist and math professor at the University of Maryland, takes on the challenge of developing mathematics from scratch in this high concept thought experiment. Suri divides his work into seven “days,” analogous to the seven days of creation in the Bible. Day one brings the invention of arithmetic, in which Suri shows how to “create” numbers, writing that they’re their own “independent entities.” In subsequent chapters, the newly created numbers play games to invent mathematical concepts such as geometry (which is day two), patterns (on day four), infinity (on day six), and on the final day, emergence, which is the “spontaneous generation of complexity” that “could plausibly create life itself.” Suri takes a jovial approach to his subject (there are, for example, side-notes to the Pope, who Suri writes would be his “most treasured potential reader”), and suggests that “the neat thing” about math is that it “can be enjoyed without needing any special mathematical knowledge or being a computation whiz.” Lay readers may have their doubts, though, as the author’s explanations sometimes confound (his breakdown of different sizes of infinity, for instance, can be a trip to parse). The math-minded, though, will enjoy Suri’s unique approach. (Sept.)

Alex Bellos

"A beautifully written meditation on mathematics: whimsical, thought-provoking, and deep."

Times [UK] - Stephen Bleach

"Infinitely fascinating. . . . [Suri] succeeds in making slippery ideas easy to grasp—including the way the vast complexity that springs from simple mathematical rules can explain intelligence and life itself."

Five Books - David Hu

"Some of the math books out there are difficult to read, but [The Big Bang of Numbers] isn’t one of them…[A]n elegant journey explaining why we have the number and math systems that we have."

Physics Today

"By limiting the formulas and equations, [Manil Suri] has created a very readable tour that emphasizes ideas over calculation."

Steven Strogatz

"In The Big Bang of Numbers, Manil Suri invites the reader to create a universe made of mathematical ideas, sparking a thrill that may catch you off guard—an exhilarating sensation of playfulness, power, and insight."

Mathematical Association of America

"A great sneak peek ahead for anyone interested in mathematical ideas, but bored by the lack of conceptual depth in their introductory math classes."

Karen Joy Fowler

"Who knew numbers could be so charming? So industrious? Suri takes us on a lighthearted journey all the way from nothing (zero) to infinity. Math has rarely been so readable."

Business Standard

"A visual pleasure to read…[Manil Suri] is a smooth, stylish writer."

John Allen Paulos

"A most unusual, creative, and fascinating account of mathematics that relies not on equations or formulas, but on real-life examples, metaphors, paradoxes, and lovely vignettes."

Wall Street Journal - Peter Pesic

"Imaginative and organized; [Suri] presents his materials clearly with nice graphics."

Marketplace Tech

"[The Big Bang of Numbers] explains how understanding math helps you understand the universe."

Kirkus Reviews

In-depth analysis of “math as the life force of the universe, a top-down driving power that fashions everything that exists.”

Suri, a novelist and mathematics professor, notes that while physics and religion can offer some answers to many big questions—“Why is the universe the way it is? How do we fit in? The two camps have been duking it out over the answers for centuries”—mathematics offers concrete solutions. In the popular mind, math equals calculation: very useful, very dull. By contrast, writes the author, “we will view mathematics as the fundamental source of creation, with reality trying to follow its dictates as best it can.” Religions have explained the origin and evolution of the universe since the dawn of history; during the last century, physicists chimed in with the Big Bang and other theories. Suri proposes to do the same with math, and readers who pay attention will agree that he is on to something. The essence of math is not counting but measuring, and nothing measurable existed before the Big Bang. You can’t determine where the Big Bang occurred because that was also when space began. In the beginning were numbers, and all were created equal, which turns out to be less simple than it sounds. Numbers can be natural (1, 2, 3…), rational (including some fractions), or irrational (pi, one the square root of 2). All these are real, but unreal (i.e. imaginary) numbers like the square root of -1 also exist, and they’re genuinely useful in many areas of science and engineering. Although Suri does not fully construct the universe, he successfully explores many areas of seemingly pure math that explain the natural world, from the shapes of galaxies and living creatures to weather, gravity, beauty, and even art. He also sheds light on abstruse subjects (fractals, infinity, curved space) that puzzle humans more than they should, creating a text that is deeper than most popular writing on math but worth the effort.

A successful contribution to the math-isn’t-boring genre.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940175968270
Publisher: HighBridge Company
Publication date: 11/29/2022
Edition description: Unabridged
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