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# Everything and More

Before discussing the merits of David Foster Wallace's

*Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity*, it is essential to define what the book is*not*. This volume in the "Great Discoveries" series is not a history of the personalities and social conditions that led to the "discovery" of infinity. Nor is it a narrative fixated on the cultish fear of--and obsession with-...morePaperback

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

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

*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...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

With that happy preface, let me tell you that "Everything and More: A Compact History of [insert here a lemniscate, the graphic symbol of i...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

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

May 27, 2014
Pierre Menard
rated it
1 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
Who likes teachers like John Keating

Shelves:
mathematics

L’eclettico romanziere americano David Foster Wallace si cimenta in un ambizioso progetto di “scrittura tecnica popolare”: raccontare la genesi storica e scientifica della teoria matematica dell’infinito elaborata nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento, con annessi e connessi (dai paradossi zenoniani al dualismo aristotelico fra infinito potenziale e infinito attuale, dai lavori di Bolzano, Weierstrass, Dedekind fino alla definitiva sistemazione cantoriana, sconfinando nel Novecento con i risultati o...more

Quello che potrebbe aiutare a renderlo comprensibile a chi non ne è già a conoscenza per studi precedenti è l'uso di una terminologia appropriata e univoca. Ovvero: tu DFW vuoi evitare le ripetizioni, giocare con gli acroni...more

ho appena iniziato e mi pare che sul Principio di Induzione ci sia qualcosa che non va:

*"... in realt�� noi agiamo per ���fiducia��� nel ripetersi di eventi dei quali abbiamo esperienza, secondo il*

**Principio di Induzione**

*per cui se un fatto x si �� ripetuto n volte in passato in determinate circostanze specifiche, possiamo ragionevolmente supporre** che le stesse circostanze produrranno il fatto x, la formazione dell���azione non risulta pertanto che essere una applicazione di tale principi*...more

Some people like peanut butter. Some people like full sour pickles. I like them both, a lot. It might stand to reason that if you combine them the payoff would be of even greater magnitude. You would, of course, be wrong.

When I learned of this book it struck me as something that couldn't possibly fail to please: Wh...more

The book is elegant in its exposition and avoids all mystical bs that often accompanies pop-science writings about infinity (or irrational numbers, primes, 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...more

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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*).”
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