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# Tutto, e di più: Storia compatta dell'infinito (Great Discoveries)

“Il vostro autore è un tizio con un interesse amatoriale di livello medio-alto per la matematica e i sistemi formali. Ha sempre detestato (con gli scarsi risultati che ne conseguono) qualsiasi corso di matematica seguito nel corso della sua vita, con una sola eccezione, peraltro estranea al suo curriculum universitario: un corso tenuto da uno di quei rari specialisti che s
...more

Paperback, 262 pages

Published
2005
by Codice
(first published 2003)

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## Community Reviews

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This book addresses three related enthusiasms: for mathematics itself, for math history (the lives of the mathematicians & the historical chain of deduction that gave us the math of today) and for DFW's high school math teacher (who sounds totally amazing). A book about any one of these might be more straightforward but DFW conflates the three in a breezy, entertaining mess. The operating concept is the history of infinity as a topic that has driven mathemati ...more

Sep 15, 2012
Nostalgebraist
rated it
did not like it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
nonfic-misc,
dfw

David Foster Wallace was a great writer of fiction. He was not a great writer of popular math exposition, as this book shows.

The main reason I read this book, besides just curiosity about one of the lesser-read Wallace books, was my interest in figuring out a certain infamous scene in Wallace's wonderful novel

The main reason I read this book, besides just curiosity about one of the lesser-read Wallace books, was my interest in figuring out a certain infamous scene in Wallace's wonderful novel

*Infinite Jest*. In that scene, one character (Michael Pemulis) dictates to another a description of a mathematical method, based on the Mean Value Theorem, that he says will simplify the ca ...moreWith that happy preface, let me tell you that "Everything and More: A Compact History of " is very technical, and its reader should ideally ...more

Andy left the study of mathematics after several months teaching remedial algebra in a public school on Chicago’s South ...more

Jul 23, 2007
David
rated it
did not like it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
mind-numbingly-boring

Love him or hate him, DFW is a prodigious talent. Except for the disturbing "Conversations with Hideous Men" I have found his previous material to be so hilariously, intelligently, on-target that I was willing to overlook a multitude of stylistic transgressions (chiefly, the overly cutesy tone, gratuitous flaunting of the author's erudition, the footnote fetish).

So I was reasonably disposed to like this book and was looking forward to reading it. Sadly, it turns out that this was a case where D ...more

So I was reasonably disposed to like this book and was looking forward to reading it. Sadly, it turns out that this was a case where D ...more

Ostensibly the book's about the history of infinity, which sounds pretty interesting, but what it's really about the history of how infinity as a concept has been treated in mathematics — which is still a fairly interesting-sounding topic, except it turns out that for it to make sense you have to understand a lot of pr ...more

DFW's at his best when he's talking about the philosophy (or is it that I'm out of my depth there...), but his mathematics is in places disconcertingly shaky, and he seems too ready to abandon mathematical carefulness for the sake of literary fireworks. And yes, I find his so-called "conversational" ...more

I suspect the criticism is largely unwarranted - DFW provides enough forewarning that he has "dumbed down" much of the math in order to bridge the gap to the difficult and abstract math he is describing. Doing so comes with the sacrifice of some accuracy. ...more

This is the first DFW book I've ever read, which may have some impact on my reception of it (Although, come to think of it, there is a DFW article in The New Kings of Nonfiction, which I didn't really have problems with.). I had a friend once, however, (actua ...more

Since I first became aware of DFW, I have had mixed feelings about his writing. I sometimes offers brilliant observations which are sometimes expressed in peerless prose. And, other times (too often for my sens ...more

Sadly, this book is not (despite emphatic protestations from the author otherwise) for people unfamiliar with advanced math (and by advanced I mean anything more complicated that basic geometry)

So, I got 200 pages in and realized that he was still talking and I still had no idea what was going on.

infinity remains a mystery

Dec 08, 2015
Andrew
added it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
scientific-nonfiction,
david-foster-wallace

I've heard some mixed things about the accuracy of Wallace's math, so I can't really comment on that. However, I don't want my math explained to me in the form of a Wallacean narrative full of footnotes-- as charming as that is for fiction and the creative essay-- but rather, presented in textbook fashion. That way I can actually grasp the math at my own pace, and grasp the patterns as I go. The head-crash of ironic tone and dense technical jargon, while it makes for a fascinating narrative devi
...more

I need try this again with someone who owns a greater, or less deficient, knowledge of math. D'oh. So no ...more

First of all, the beautiful beautiful words! I have just finished something (else: Chomsky) where I crossed out acres of text to chop it down to syntactic ligaments, only. You can't do that with THIS book! Every Word Matters; it is a thing of beauty.

However, now half way through the book, I am unable to appreciate a big part of the thesis, which has to do with the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus which takes an integral by limiting a little slice of incremental area do ...more

In Math, Better Explained, Kalid Azad says "Children are expected to cope with mathematics that drove educated adults insane hundreds of years ago." Amusing, true, and yet no one really explained the insanity the way D ...more

Apr 15, 2007
Justin
rated it
really liked it
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
Wallace Fans/Math Nerds/Infinity Nerds

The reason this book works so well is that Wallace writes about the history of grappling with possibly the most slippery and forbidding concept (infinity) in a very conversant tone. While at times, I did feel like he went overboard a bit so that it went from "conversant" to "patronizing," I generally like DF Wallace a lot and appreciated what he was trying to do with this book (i.e. write a book that "anyone can read" about a "very complicated subject").

This is one in a number of books written o ...more

This is one in a number of books written o ...more

The book tries to present its complex subject matter in a conversat ...more

Biggest takeaway is that math is fundamentally weird. After reading, I'm not sure I even know what math is anymore.

The writing is wonderful.

I would love to recommend this book to more people, because it's got that characteristic DFW apprehension of complexity and truth to it, plus the wide ranging references to everything. However, I knew the reals vs. the integers vs. a hole in the ground going in, and I still don't understand his description of Cantor's proof of the existence of transfinite numbers.

Anyway, I ate this book up, whereas I still ...more

Among other crimes against clarity, he almost without exception refers to a key concept, theorem or work by its full name only once, and thereafter only with an acronym. This doesn't matter too much when the acronym refers to a mathematician (G.G. for Galileo Galilei, for example) but for everything els ...more

Parts of it are humorous [esp. biographical stuff about mathematicians, as well as asides about his own beloved HS math teacher], and it's sort of vicariously fun to follow along a ...more

It's interesting as a math history, but often spinningly complex as a math book proper. I think the approach that Wallace took of trying to outline mathematical concepts and proofs as he goes along, describing things to his greatest capacity in natural language, a ...more

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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe
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“Maybe even more important than the D.B.P. [Divine Brotherhood of Pythagoras], ∞-wise is the protomystic Parmenides of Elea (c.515-? BCE), not only because of his distinction between the 'Way of Truth' and 'Way of Seeing' framed the terms of Greek metaphysics and (again) influenced Plato, but because Parmenides' #1 student and defender was the aforementioned Zeno, the most fiendishly clever and upsetting philosopher ever (who can be seen actually kicking Socrates' ass, argumentatively speaking, in Plato's
—
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*Parmenides*).”
“In speaking of arithmetic (algebra, analysis) as a part of logic I mean to imply that I consider the number-concept entirely independent of the notions or intuitions of space and time, that I consider it an immediate result from the laws of thought.”
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