Customer Review

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another excellent history of mathematics, 2 April 2011
This review is from: Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics (Hardcover)
The question has been asked: "Who is this book for?" and my answer would probably be: "the author."

A book has various purposes: to entertain is one, and to inform is another. A third is (more controversially in the philosophical sense) to clarify the thoughts of the writer. One has the sense that Stewart has a lot of mathematics jumbled up in his head and (this sentiment I can identify with) has the need to structure it in some manner. And in that, this book appears to be a success.

As one of those in the position of having a mathematics degree, I can state that this book ought to be easily comprehensible to mathematics undergraduates. (When I say "easily", though, it requires that the brain behind the eyes be alert and prepared to do a little hard lifting.) It also ought to be accessible to those studying mathematics beyond GCSE (someone else go translate for non-British education systems). To anyone reasonably literate to whom this book is completely incomprehensible I would suggest you're not really into mathematics that much anyway, so why are you wasting your time reading this when your intellectual capabilities are probably far better employed picking lottery numbers and guessing who's going to win TV talent contests.

As for me, there are a lot of areas of mathematics which puzzle me a little, and several which intrigue me. The reason why this gets a 5-star review is that exactly those areas which have both puzzled *and* intrigued me were covered in a few choice, pithy words, along the lines: "Statistics is applied probability" and explanation about how the axiomatisation of probability was based on Lebesgue measure (I'd noticed the correlation but I hadn't twigged that this was a genuinely crafted construction because the usual literature glosses over it).

It's all too easy to give up at the first concept you don't get straight away. The superior mind takes another run up at it, and repeats until successful. Don't forget we also have google now. If you don't understand something, ask yourself whether this is the fault of the writer or the reader. And if you're really not sufficiently motivated enough to try and work out what is being communicated, ask yourself why you bothered to start reading this in the first place. Then go watch the footie instead.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Aug 2012 13:47:30 BDT
Blencathra says:
"explanation about how the axiomatisation of probability was based on Lebesgue measure (I'd noticed the correlation but I hadn't twigged that this was a genuinely crafted construction because the usual literature glosses over it)."
Hmmmm. Maybe the reviewers who feel that one should have studied maths at undergraduate level to get the most out of this book have a point.

Posted on 5 Nov 2014 10:14:57 GMT
Dragonfly says:
"To anyone reasonably literate to whom this book is completely incomprehensible I would suggest you're not really into mathematics that much anyway, so why are you wasting your time reading this when your intellectual capabilities are probably far better employed picking lottery numbers and guessing who's going to win TV talent contests" says far more about the reviewer than about the book.
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