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“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
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Paperback

Published
2003
by W.W. Norton

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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

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

With 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

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

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

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
4 of 5 stars
·
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

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

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 *Parmenides*).”
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“What exactly do ‘motion’ and ‘existence’ denote? We know that concrete particular things exist, and that sometimes they move. Does motion per se exist? In what way? In what way do abstractions exist? Of course, that last question is itself very abstract. Now you can probably feel the headache starting. There’s a special sort of unease or impatience with stuff like this. Like ‘What exactly is existence?’ or ‘What exactly do we mean when we talk about motion?’ The unease is very distinctive and sets in only at a certain level in the abstraction process—because abstraction proceeds in levels, rather like exponents or dimensions. Let’s say ‘man’ meaning some particular man is Level One. ‘Man’ meaning the species is Level Two. Something like ‘humanity’ or ‘humanness’ is Level Three; now we’re talking about the abstract criteria for something qualifying as human. And so forth. Thinking this way can be dangerous, weird. Thinking abstractly enough about anything … surely we’ve all had the experience of thinking about a word—‘pen,’ say—and of sort of saying the word over and over to ourselves until it ceases to denote; the very strangeness of calling something a pen begins to obtrude on the consciousness in a creepy way, like an epileptic aura.”
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Steev wrote: "Yes! And that's what John Stewart said once about his show; they try to get stuff right not because they're journalists but because it's...moreApr 15, 2011 09:57AM

book, but still, brutal in a special mathematical way. Most of the math-reviewers completely failed to enjoy the large amounts of humor in this book,...moreApr 15, 2011 11:48AM