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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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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To infinity and beyond ................., 14 Jun 2006
By 
Mr P R Morgan "Peter Morgan" (BATH, Bath and N E Somerset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
There is almost a pun in the title: how can you have a brief history of infinity? However, this book by Brian Clegg is part of a series, so it is stretching bounds of probability to suggest that the whole series is named just to get a pun in a title! I have not read any of the others in the series, but from their titles, they seem to be of a historical nature, rather than concepts and ideas. The sub-title of this volume is also interesting: "the quest to think the unthinkable". That statement gives a key to the book. What does the notion of infinity give us?

For me the first 100 pages of Clegg's book do not really work. It is both slow, and nebulous. However, after that, it opens up, and gives a good narrative of the progress towards the unreachable. Strangely, that is not just the infinitely large, but also the infinity small. Somehow "proper" numbers are sandwiched between the immeasurable at either ends of the spectrum. Clegg falls on the side of the usefulness of ideas, rather than the sheer understandability. Calculus, in both the Newtonian and Leibnizian forms, is introduced as "something that works". It was only later that the need for infinitely small is eliminated from calculus - by then this mathematical tool had been very useful in solving many real problems.

After the slow labouring start, the volume CAN be a beginner's guide to the subject, but is probably not be for the faint-hearted. It will help your understanding if you are familiar with ideas from modern mathematical thinking. If not, the notion of there being different `levels' of infinity can come as rather a jolt. How can two numbers, both of which are not countable, be different? How can there be the same number of odd numbers as there are of odd-and-even numbers? It is not surprising that the man behind set theory, Georg Cantor, lost his sanity when investigating the infinitely large.

In essence, the book covers so much more than just infinity. It really does go "to infinity and beyond". Infinity is a strange idea, but one that underlies many of the advances that have taken place since the start of the 20th century. Advances in number theory, cosmology, physics and atomic physics can be better understood if a basic understanding of infinity is grasped. Clegg covers these parts well.

The title was not a pun. However, Clegg does not disappoint in his last sentence. "When it comes to infinity, the possibilities are, perhaps inevitably, endless". I suppose he had to say that, didn't he?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, but thought-provoking, 20 Oct 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
A very readable overview of the history of the infinitely large and the infinitely small, with thought-provoking insights into what those phrases even mean.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hits the (infinite) spot, 25 Mar 2004
This review is from: Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable (Paperback)
I was given this at Christmas, and thought it did just what it said on the tin - a brief history of infinity. If I have one criticism it's that it's a bit short. There's no padding at all here - some great asides, but that what makes a good pop sci book - but it's all good stuff. Still, it provides a perfect introduction that can lead on elsewhere. I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't know much about the subject, but finds the concept intriguing.
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Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable
Brief History of Infinity: The Quest to Think the Unthinkable by Brian Clegg (Paperback - 12 Sep 2003)
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