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Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering the Universal Truth in Logic and Math
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Euclid in the Rainforest by Joseph Mazur, Plume (Penguin, USA), 2006, 336 ff.

by Dr Howard A. Jones (Carmarthen, UK)

This is a book about the history of mathematics presented as a novel: as a result it is eminently readable. It does for mathematics what Sophie's World did for philosophy. Most of the mathematical calculations are confined to the Appendixes and Notes, so there is nothing to seriously intimidate the non-mathematician.

In just a few hundred pages, the author has had to be selective in the topics he covers. For these topics we learn something of the background to the discoveries and the mathematicians who made them. Pythagoras' Theorem, irrational numbers, set theory and non-Euclidean geometry all find a place here. These can seem puzzling to those who have not met them before, but they are presented here in Mazur's easy writing style.

There is also an underlying theme to the book of philosophical issues - how do we assess truth, are there different kinds of truth derived by induction or deduction, what does the concept of infinity really mean, can we resolve the paradoxes of Greek philosopher Zeno, how does the non-realism of mathematics relate to the real natural world, and what degree of certainty emerges from calculations of probability or chance? This last section is particularly well presented anecdotally, as are the other subjects of the book, in terms of journeys the author has made around the world.

This is a very readable book that anybody who enjoys mathematics as much as the author, or even who wants a good selection of stories that are very much more than just pulp fiction, can enjoy.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books, UK.
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on 18 August 2014
This books is extremely well written and is one of the best I have ever read. Each chapter combines interesting mathematics with the author's beautiful stories which take place on the Greek Islands. In my opinion, this should be an essential read for anyone interested in mathematics. It is a true masterpiece.
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on 7 April 2012
This is a brillantly told set of stories of the author's experience of understanding maths. He explains concepts in a simple and accessible way that left me wishing the book was longer. The book is worth reading even if you don't love maths as the surrounding stories have a fascination of their own.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I'm afraid this book has joined the ranks of the very few that I have started and not finished. Possibly I'm missing the point, but after the first 50 or so pages it had still not got going and didn't look like when it did it was going to go anywhere anyway.
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