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Imagining Numbers

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  124 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Shows how the art of mathematical imagining is not as mysterious as it seems. This book reveals how anyone can begin to visualize the enigmatic 'imaginary numbers' that first baffled mathematicians in the 16th century.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 25th 2004 by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (first published 2002)
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Ami Iida
Feb 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: math
I fail to read the book.
You must not read it absolutely.
Dec 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
It was an enjoyable review of complex numbers and a bit of trigonometry, along with some good history of mathematical thought. The analogies to poetry, however, struck me as just bloviating, and I started to skip those bits.
Rishiyur Nikhil
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Vicki Cline
Nov 22, 2012 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
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
Apr 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was ok
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. :-)
Mar 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 22, 2007 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 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 19, 2015 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
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wonderful explanation of imaginary numbers - easily accessible and written with humor.
Mar 21, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: mathematics
As seen in Nature .
David Howell
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Never finished reading it - nothing of interest for me
Kavi Duvvoori
rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2013
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Oct 29, 2013
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Kris Wong
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Jan 10, 2016
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Aug 13, 2012
Eddie Hitler
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Sep 29, 2010
Sep 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
3.5 stars.
rated it liked it
Feb 24, 2012
Paul De Belder
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Dec 01, 2012
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Barry Mazur (Harvard University)
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