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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUSHING BACK THE BOUNDARIES OF THINKING
This excellent book helps readers get their minds around one of the most difficult concepts in the world if not the universe. The author approaches the subject of INFINITY from a number of fascinating angles and takes us through a historical journey to demonstrate how philosophers and mathematicians from Zeno, Plato and Aristotle through Galileo to Einstein, Leibniz and...
Published on 30 Oct 2003 by team1510

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy way to infinity
I was a little disappointed that works and discoveries about infinity was not treated in more detail. Instead, many of the pages are used for biographies; The life and doings of a lot of mathematicians are covered from childhood to death. This of course can be (or is) very interesting, but was not what I excpected. I also got a feeling that this was done in part to avoid...
Published on 10 May 2006 by Yngvar Hartvigsen


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy way to infinity, 10 May 2006
By 
Yngvar Hartvigsen (Luster, Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
I was a little disappointed that works and discoveries about infinity was not treated in more detail. Instead, many of the pages are used for biographies; The life and doings of a lot of mathematicians are covered from childhood to death. This of course can be (or is) very interesting, but was not what I excpected. I also got a feeling that this was done in part to avoid writing more about infinity, which of course is a much more difficult topic. The book is intended for a reader with little mathematical background, and this may be the reason why the author avoids difficult questions. There are good and readable presentations of some of the wellknown paradoxes, which should make everyone wonder about the strange behavior when we move away from the finite experience.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PUSHING BACK THE BOUNDARIES OF THINKING, 30 Oct 2003
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
This excellent book helps readers get their minds around one of the most difficult concepts in the world if not the universe. The author approaches the subject of INFINITY from a number of fascinating angles and takes us through a historical journey to demonstrate how philosophers and mathematicians from Zeno, Plato and Aristotle through Galileo to Einstein, Leibniz and Hilbert have grappled with this most unthinkable of problems. I found this book thoroughly thought-provoking, highly stimulating and immensely rewarding. It enriched my knowledge and helped me push back the boundaries of my own thought processes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant tour of the infinite, 15 Oct 2003
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
I came across this book at the author's lecture at the Royal Institution in London. It works well because it tells the story of infinity, bringing in the people, not just concentrating on the maths. The writing's not too technical but challenging enough to make you think. Just a great book.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great history, shame about the maths., 8 Jan 2004
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
Sorry to be a wet blanket among all these favourable reviews, but none are from readers who know the maths. And I am afraid Mr Clegg gets some of it wrong (or at least, so simplifies it that it becomes positively misleading). There is much in the book to enjoy but I think it regrettable that a book which deals with one of the most fascinating areas of mathematics should mislead its readers on some of the key issues.
This is particularly annoying in two of the most important parts of the modern theory. Firstly, his explanation of the higher alephs is so inadequate that all subsequent discussion of the continuum hypothesis is meaningless. Even more annoying is his simplification of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem to the extent that he gets both the interpretation and the methodology wrong. You cannot discuss Godel's results without first introducing the notion of Consistency; a mathematical system is of no value unless it's axioms are consistent. Mr Clegg quotes the sentence 'This system of mathematics can't prove this statement is true.' He comments "If the system proves this statement, then it can't prove it." That's not the case. If the system proves the statement then the system has proved something which isn't true. So the system is inconsistent and therefore worthless. If, as we hope, the system is consistent then it cannot prove the statement. But that's precisely what the statement says, so the system has been unable to prove something which is nonetheless true! This is the real beauty and brilliance of Godel's insight.
I would not want these comments to discourage anyone from reading this book but I would like the reader to realise that the underlying maths is much richer and more beautiful than is conveyed here.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There are better works around, 5 Jan 2008
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This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
If I'd not read Rucker's work on the subject (Infinity and The Mind), I might have thought this was pretty cool. But having said that, we may be reaching saturation point on the books about mathematicians (which this seems to be) - we need more about the *maths*.

I think there's a perception that to keep it readable it needs to be dumbed down. There's a lot of that going on. It's possible to explain *everything* in simple terms if you try hard enough. Maybe Clegg hasn't tried all that hard, or maybe he's scared of alienating the casual reader. Whatever, he doesn't do much for the mathematically literate who want to get something out of this. There's not actually all that much.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 25 Jan 2005
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
This is a very interesting and informative description of the history of infinity.
Infinity is a fascinating (and complex) subject but Brian Clegg does an extremely good job of presenting it in a highly readable and essentially non-mathematical way. I have a mathematical background but this book should be accessible to all.
I tend to agree with the previous reviewer who criticised presentation of some of the more complex mathematics in particular the higher alephs and Godel. However, I do not believe that these issues significantly detracted from my enjoyment of the book (mainly because I had not expectation that they would be covered well).
An excellent popular science/mathematics book - highly recommended to all
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars could do with more descriptions, 2 Dec 2011
By 
Ter (Aberdeen) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
Could do with more descriptions describing the various thoughts. I think what fails to come through is just how big some of the theoretical steps were. The book covers a very lengthy span of time. We are used to major change happening quite quickly; whereas some of the changes in the way this subject matter is considered took lifetimes to come to fruition. I would have liked some more descriptions of what we think infinity means.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 30 July 2010
By 
M. F. Cayley (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
A fascinating book on the development of the mathematical understanding of infinity, enlivened with accounts of some of the key personalities. Brian Clegg includes quite a lot of maths: he has the gift of explaining it in a way which means that you need only an elementary knowledge of maths (really just basic simple arithmetic), and a little concentration, to understand the full detail. The result is a model of how to explain sophisticated mathematical concepts to non-specialists without over-simplification. I really enjoyed the book, and thoroughly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finitely Enjoyable, 20 Oct 2003
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
I would perhaps have once said 'infinitely enjoyable' - but, having read this book I think it would be impossible to say that - as I think (?) that that would mean that nothing else could ever truly appeal to me again.
This book was fascinating from start to finish - and cleared up some questions I've had lurking deep in my brain for many a year. And, it cleared these up using truly delightfully prose.
I'm definitely 'a fan' - and have just ordered Light Years for myself as a treat.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feed Your Mind, 25 Oct 2003
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Mr. P. Cook (GILLINGHAM, KENT United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
Unlike one of the other reviewers, I am a scientist, although I got over it.... But this book makes maths and matters of science enjoyable and accessible. Brian has a real knack at making the complex compelling, useful and enjoyable. A good read just for the hell of it or especially if you work in the field of getting others to accept new ideas.
Peter Cook
Director, Human Dynamics - Purging people's inner management demons through rock and roll....
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