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Imagining Numbers: (particularly the square root of minus fifteen)
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Imagining Numbers: (particularly the square root of minus fifteen)

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  103 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Barry Mazur invites lovers of poetry to make a leap into mathematics. Through discussions of the role of the imagination and imagery in both poetry and mathematics, Mazur reviews the writings of the early mathematical explorers and reveals the early bafflement of these Renaissance thinkers faced with imaginary numbers. Then he shows us, step-by-step, how to begin imagining ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 1st 2004 by Picador (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 287)
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Dec 06, 2008 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
An irritating and badly rel]alised attempt to compare poetic and scientific imagination, with particular reference to conceptualising 'i' and its relatives. As is too often the case with this kind of book, the layout is confusing and the trickier mathematical concepts are hurried through.
Vicki Cline
Dec 21, 2012 Vicki Cline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math
This is an interesting mix of poetry, history, algebra and geometry, leading the reader to appreciate the development of the understanding of i, the square root of minus one. I was particularly struck by the explanation of arithmetical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication) as manipulations of the real number line. Thus adding 5 to each number shifts the line 5 places to the right (or subtracting shifts it to the left), and multiplying by a positive number causes the number line to e ...more
Rishiyur Nikhil
Feb 12, 2013 Rishiyur Nikhil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With many excursions into visualization in poetry, goes into the history of how imaginary numbers (square roots of negative numbers) were initially deemed "impossible", and slowly evolved into the "unnatural" or "uncomfortable" and finally into a perfectly respectable concept. In large part, this is tied into the geometric interpretation of numbers and algebra, and in particular the complex plane, where addition becomes a translation, and multiplication becomes a scaling and rotation.

Reminds me
Jun 22, 2012 Ginnz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ok so the book was billed as an explanation of imagery numbers, which it was.
A brief history of imaginary numbers from then they were first encountered through to the nineteenth century. The issue I had with the book was it was a rather slow progress through the history and the author tried to compare the mathematics with poetry.
Now as all mathematicians know, mathematics is a form of poetry. It has a grace and form that are beautiful and astounding however Barry rather laboured this point. As
A little tome about the history and approachable explanation of imaginary numbers. A lot of the book's value was probably lost since I knew about most of the material. But it did refresh my memory on the topic, as well as give me some unexpected insight into the nature of imaginary numbers( thinking of number multiplication as rotation operations, why negative times negative is actually positive, looking at multiplication and exponents of imaginary numbers as rotation, etc.) The book has these m ...more
Nov 11, 2008 Coco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was introduced to me by Ms. Jaffe. We talked about it in class when starting our Imaginary Numbers unit. This book is half of the things i think about and everything i never thought to think about put into a book. It connects ideas of math to english but mostly the way things work. If listed the facts it tells, you would think it had the most random information, but it flows quite well. It often talks about the difference in certain things we think about and about imagination. What ima ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Viki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a surprising disappointment. The intersection between poetry and mathematics doesn't need to be nearly as tedious and dull as this - the author clearly enjoyed this transferring this incessantly rambling narrative out of his head and into book form. I got a distinct sense that it was edited and cleared for publication by literary folks who mistook its density for complexity. I finally gave myself permission to toss this across the room and move on, without guilt. :-)
David Howell
Never finished reading it - nothing of interest for me
Mar 14, 2007 severyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have already learned that McGraw-Hill editors were encouraged not to use 'the word 'imagine' because people in Texas felt it was too close to the word 'magic' and therefore might be considered anti-Christian.'

Apart from that, which isn't really the point of the book, too much maths for someone as lazy as me, and not enough on trying to imagine things, which sort of was the point of the book.
Mar 15, 2007 PMP rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More poetry than mathematics, or illuminating the poetry in mathematics. The sort of cross-pollination between disciplines that gets me so thrilled. Taught me the incomparable word "onomatoid". You have to see the window display that Barry's wife Gretchen designed to advertise the book. It involved a coat hanger, a bee and a tulip. The store-owners called to ask if she had made a mistake.
Aug 22, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember a conversation with a friend at university who told me about imaginary numbers. He didn't explain them very well but he caught my interest.

This is the most entertaining book on mathematics you will ever read but a warning, if you're rusty on your sums like me, there is a lot of flicking backwards and forwards.
Mar 24, 2008 Jarrod rated it it was ok
Somewhat tedious and boring. The main concept I took away from the book was the idea that numbers can be conceptualized in completely abstract forms, which can allow the thinker to evaluate information in new or unusual ways. I would have enjoyed the book more had it been a pamphlet.
Mar 21, 2012 Elizabeth marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
As seen in Nature .
Oct 18, 2014 Jillian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, adult
3.5 stars.
Jun 12, 2008 Marcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful explanation of imaginary numbers - easily accessible and written with humor.
Feb 15, 2016 Brett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I gave up. I wanted to like it, but there is just nothing there to like.
512 MAZ
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Jul 17, 2016
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Barry Mazur (Harvard University)
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