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# An Imaginary Tale: The Story of the Square Root of Minus One

In An Imaginary Tale, Paul Nahin tells the 2000-year-old history of one of mathematics' most elusive numbers, the square root of minus one, also known as i, re-creating the baffling mathematical problems that conjured it up and the colorful characters who tried to solve them. Addressing readers with both a general and scholarly interest in mathematics, Nahin weaves into th...more

Paperback, 267 pages

Published
February 1st 2007
by Princeton University Press
(first published 1998)

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## Community Reviews

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I wouldn't call it a non-fiction book per se, but something more of a supplementary book for those interested in digging deeper into a subject. Here the subject under discussion was complex numbers (specifically the imaginary number i).

In the preface, the author claims that no book has ever been written on this subject alone in a non-text book form, so h...more

e^(i * pi) + 1 = 0.

Such an elegant way to connect the five most important constants in math, along with fundamental mathematical operations. Unfortunately, the understanding of the math involved in the book, which I'm sure I used to have 50 years ago when I got my BA in math, has left me. I had to skip over most of the equations in the book (and there are a lot of them), so I don't even know if I can co...more

Edit: This is a real math book, with real math. Like, solving differential equations math. But there's a story you can follow without following every step of the calculations as long as you can...more

This book is a comprehensive history of the number i. It explains the history of the idea of the number itself, its geometric and interpretation, and then its applications.

He says that a high school graduate who studied calculus should be fine reading it, but I wouldn't quite agree. You have to have calculus pretty fresh on your mind to just dive into this. It has so...more

Oct 24, 2008
ajp3
rated it
5 of 5 stars

Recommends it for:
ppl interested in cool shit

Recommended to ajp3 by:
kazimitsu tarui

one of the best mathematics books ever written. the last two chapters have significant mathematical formalism (mostly complex analysis), but up until that point almost any calculus student will understand the arguments presented. some of the most elegant and beautiful ideas are covered in this surprisingly short book. I love it and try to read it often.

May 18, 2010
Zach
is currently reading it

An excellent book about the history of one of the most important developments in mathematics!

*i*, forms the basis for complex numbers, which in turn have countless applications in science and engineering.

This book provides a d...more

Diciamo che ho apprezzato la prima metà del libro, con i tentativi iniziali di dare un senso ai numeri insensati... pardon immaginari. Ma nella seconda parte Nahin si ricorda che la sua formazione è quella di ingegnere elettromeccanico. Potete anche dire che io sono pieno di pregiudizi, ma sono troppo abituato a vedere vagonate di...more

Granted, that may have been due to Nahin's decidedly engineer-fascinated-by-math style of writing (that style

*does*exist, I swear; I grew up with my dad teaching me math in a way that can only be described as filtered through an engineer's mind); aside from my dad, the people I spoke math with were all mathematicians.

I should have read this when I first rec...more

Mar 08, 2014
Dntai
is currently reading it

I thinks it is great to read

His claim that you can read it with basic math skills is at best a delusion.

Every page seems to have at least 2 math problems and I couldn't figure out even what I didn't know about the problems by the third chapter (not the full third chapter)

So, I have given up on this book until my skills in calculus and algebraic proofs are about 10 to 100 times better.

Jan 03, 2009
Camille
added it

I'm taking a complex variables class right now, and this book is basicallly the history of imaginary numbers. It's interesting, but I'll probably skim a lot.

Nov 12, 2012
Rod
marked it as to-read

Some interesting geometric perspectives. Geometry was never my strong suit, so these pasages have slowed me down.

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Mar 08, 2011 07:04AM