Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.

Start by marking “Mystery of the Aleph” as Want to Read:

# Mystery of the Aleph

From the end of the 19th century until his death, one of history's most brilliant mathematicians languished in an asylum.

*The Mystery of the Aleph*tells the story of Georg Cantor (1845-1918), a Russian-born German who created set theory, the concept of infinite numbers, and the "continuum hypothesis," which challenged the very foundations of mathematics. His ideas brought ...moreAudio, 5 pages

Published
September 4th 2001
by Random House Audio
(first published 2000)

## Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book,
please sign up.

## Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about
Mystery of the Aleph,
please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mystery of the Aleph

This book is not yet featured on Listopia.
Add this book to your favorite list »

## Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)

Both the continuum hypothesis and its converse are true. And both the continuum hypothesis and its converse are not true. The continuum hypothesis is undecidable within our realm of mathematics.

By 'our realm of mathematics' Aczel means the ZFC theory. By 'undecidable' he means 'independent' (fair enough, apparently the two are used as synonyms in some contexts). What he means by 'converse' is not cl ...more

Jun 08, 2012
K.D. Rose
rated it
it was amazing
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
cross-cultural-spirituality,
math-that-matters

This wouldnt seem to be a book that would go under cross-cultural spirituality. It is.

It depends on how much you are trying to understand. Ultimately, deep study takes you to almost every discipline and science, hard and soft.

It depends on how much you are trying to understand. Ultimately, deep study takes you to almost every discipline and science, hard and soft.

Aczel's fascinating book is a short narrative history of the concept of infinity (the aleph) with a concentration on its mathematical development, especially through Galileo, Cantor, Gödel, Paul Cohen and others, meshed with some very interesting material from the ancient Greeks and the Kabbalists who associated infinity with their ideas of God. He includes some material on how strikingly difficult it was for Cantor and others to go against established ...more

The book covers the idealized history of mathematical ideas related to infinity, while telling in parallel the biographies of the various people who were a part of it. More than one of the stories fall into the "tortured genius versus crusty establishment" trope.

The book breezes through fairly advanced topics without much explanation, which is fine if you already have some idea about set theory and related ideas. Yet in another place, he mentions pi and e, parenthetically explaining that 'e' is ...more

Feb 07, 2011
Matthew Daniels
rated it
really liked it
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
Casual readers interested in history about the infinite

This book was a captivating read... but not exactly what I was looking for when I read it. Though flavorful -- and I can appreciate that this is book is written for a specific audience that I might not be a part of -- I felt that Aczel could have dared to present a little more mathematics in a few places. There were about two or three pages devoted to silhouetting Cantor's diagonal proofs for the countability of the integers and reals, but besides occasionally inserting a statement of the contin
...more

No Math knowledge is needed to understand this book, but if you know a bit about classical analysis it gives a view of the people behind the theorems.

The philosophical angle is the question: what is ...more

Side note: When I read this, I had already been intrigued by the complexities of Kabbalah as it figured into U ...more

In The Mystery of the Aleph, Aczel explores the concept of infinity from Pythagoras to Cantor. I wish I could understand all ...more

Aug 26, 2009
Benjamin
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Recommends it for:
If that title grabs your interest than read the book.

I feel the same way about advanced mathematics and advanced physics.

The concepts and ramifications fascinate me, but I don't want to spend the

time and energy it would take to fully comprehend the details.

The author did an excellent job focusing on the background of the

discussions about infinity, Cantor's life, and a few mathmaticians that followed

in his footsteps. He explained just enough of infinity math so that the layman

could understand the concepts without getting bogged down in the details. ...more

The concepts and ramifications fascinate me, but I don't want to spend the

time and energy it would take to fully comprehend the details.

The author did an excellent job focusing on the background of the

discussions about infinity, Cantor's life, and a few mathmaticians that followed

in his footsteps. He explained just enough of infinity math so that the layman

could understand the concepts without getting bogged down in the details. ...more

Cantor went insane, seemingly due to pondering infinities. Godel underwent a similar breakdown for similar reasons. Fascinating! But let's sum that up as an oddity in about one paragraph and move on...

The timeline was muddled. Are we following Cantor or not? What year is it again? We linger over the math theory, yet the application of it, the reason why what we're reading matters, eh, let's just take that as gi ...more

Jan 27, 2014
dejah_thoris
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
non-fiction,
history

Definitely the most philosophical or mystical of his books I've read so far. Loads about the Kabbalah and how contemplating infinity might drive you mad, like poor Georg Cantor who is featured in the book. I've always found the levels of infinity hard to grasp, but Aczel makes them as transparent as possible. Definitely worth trying to wrap your head around from either a mathematical or a religious perspective, but be warned: you might start to question everything!

There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
Be the first to start one »