12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Interesting math, period-piece politics, a hardcover flame,
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of Pi (Paperback)
The cold-war era spawned a group of people who believed that the greatest threat to humanity was Soviet Communism. Beckmann was a mordant, informed example of kind. In reading this book, I got the feeling that he couldn't write a grocery list without taking a few good swipes at the Russians. He had a few other targets on his list: anti-nuclear activists, new-age mystification pedlars, and organized religion, at least in the forms that have achieved totalitarian power in society.
Like the Irish of James Joyce's Ulysses, he finds the Roman Empire to be an overblown, violent, anti-intellectual tyranny. Unlike the Irish, he thinks that the Brits are wonderful. After all, they took good care of Isaac Newton.
Scattered around this leavening of political rhetoric is a mathematical history of pi. Here, too, there's a polemic. Beckman dosen't like modern math teaching methods. Nonetheless, the material is interesting. You can imagine the sarcastic field-day that he gets out of the Indiana State Legislature's near-miss at legislating pi to be equal to 3.
The book ends with a badly dated and rather uninformed exploration of computerized calculations of pi.
All in all, I found the book to be a window into a rather obsessive personality. I'm not sure I care enough about the various calculations of pi to justify the toasty feeling of reading a 100 page flame.