Science Book Club discussion

Playing with Infinity
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Book of the Month Discussion > Playing with Infinity

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Bill Burris (wburris) | 248 comments Mod
This is our book discussion for Dec 2018.


José Baltodano (xagaj) I am currently in the section
3. The parcelling out of the infinite number series

For what I understand, the book is about over simplifying mathematics, he makes funny points as why using the term "cubing" or why we use a number system with 10 as base and not 12 selecting; being that humans have 10 fingers max in their hands as the reason.

But the whole issue which made me dislike the book is that even those nugget of text are included in what I consider filler; I do not see who is supposed to find fun in reading about numerical systems in that kind of way. I feel like the book is trapped in between the seriousness of math and the fun of practical examples the author wanted to present.


Vidya (vidyabhandary) | 77 comments It does seem very simplistic I agree. I am hoping when we get to the later chapters it will be more interesting.
For now - continuing to read ...


Vidya (vidyabhandary) | 77 comments Initially the book may seem simplistic but it soon begins to delve into various concepts via plenty of images , numbers and relevant examples.

However it does suffer from being a little out-dated. Many of the concepts have now been introduced more visually in a richer manner via youtube and graphics. That does not mean it has no value. If one takes up a pen and paper and tries to follow the workings where it has been mentioned the reader can work it out himself - it does make one think. And that is the beauty of the book.

What I did not like were the long sentences. I found some of the explanations verbose. This was required perhaps since it is after all an old book and it would have made the material approachable for the reader of that time.


Sunil Hi, I started reading this book yesterday and currently I just finished chapter 5 of the first part "Sorcerer's apprentice". A lot of things in the first few chapter is something which is excellent for 6-10th standard students. Later, on 5th chapter he uses the term "topology" to describe four different topics, graph theory, algebraic topology, convex sets, and discrete geometry. I must say that it slightly gives a misleading idea about general topology. I know that this book is primarily for non-mathematicians, but still I'm reading it to see how the author performs.


Kenneth Bassett II Hello, started reading this on Sunday. I'm also through chapter 5. I would be surprised if counting base 2 or base 12 or base 16 is in primary or intermediary education. Hexadecimal is still a hard concept for me to work with, and I'm an engineer working with 50,000 integrated circuits per day. I've always seen base 12 as elegant and easy, working with degrees, minutes, and seconds in amateur astronomy and physics, everything is divisible by 12.

The French base 20 was funny. Quarte Vignt? I wonder if it is true they counted their toes and this is how it developed, or if language just developed 4 20's as a popular way to say 80, and they stuck with it, like a dozen. But it would be interesting to know if there is an application for it. Probably no because we already have base 2 and base 10.

My favorite story was about the scientist and the mathematician making tea. I'm kind of developing it into an anecdote for standard work at my plant. The scientist guessed that everything was normal with the pot and the water, and lit the match and boiled the water. The mathematician first reduced the problem down to it's minimum requirements, but he doesn't need to make assumptions, he knows that if he follows his order of operations he will boil the water. Same with my team at work, if they find something not normal, bring it back to normal first, then follow standard work, and you know you will create a good part. If you make assumptions, it introduces the possibility of making a mistake.

I'll be interested to see where this book ends.

-Ken B


Sunil Hi, I just finished reading this book. I didn't like it. I believe any decent math major can write a book better than this. Set theory should have been discussed earlier along with cardinalities of set. The proof that real numbers are greater than natural number has been provided, but the definition of countably infinite (aleph-not) and uncountably infinite hasn't been defined. Although emphasis on function is given, one-one and onto functions are not even defined. This would have been the major portion in defining infinities. After more than 100 pages of extremely elementary stuff, dirchlet function is mentioned casually. Part 3 was the worst part, it was so confusing and not written rigorously, along with that definition of continnum and that debate on the Euclid postulate on parallel lines. This is not all what I found annoying in this book, but I hope you get an overall idea.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

Thanks for reading and forgive my harshness.

If anybody have any doubt with any mathematical term used in the book (or in general), please feel free to text me.


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