- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 7, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067973807X
- ISBN-13: 978-0679738077
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond Numeracy Reprint Edition
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Beyond Numeracy by bestselling author John Allen Paulos is, according to the introduction, "in part a dictionary, in part a collection of short mathematical essays, and in part the ruminations of a numbers man." This book is genuinely different from other books on mathematics intended for a wide audience as the essay topics are indisputably diverse. (Titles include "Human Consciousness, Its Fractal Nature" and "Mathematics in Ethics.") Furthermore, Paulos's unique sense of humor and ability to intelligently editorialize are delightful--especially in a book on such a dry subject.
From Publishers Weekly
These conversational, refreshing essays--organized in dictionary format from "algebra" to "zeno"--demonstrate math's relevancy to everyday life; this guide was a BOMC and QPB alternate. Illustrated.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The nice thing about this book is that you can read it bit by bit, since each chapter that deals with a topic is about 3-5 pages long, so you won't get bored and if you don't understand one topic you can move on to the next one. The topics are not really connected, so one can just move on to somehting one finds more interesting.
Overall, I believe I now know what many of the complex topics like chaos theory are about. Enough for a cocktail conversation with a mathematician at least.
The articles about the philosophical detours of a mathematician were also difficult to follow. I have the impression (just a metaphor) that when we perceive a formula or mathematical or logical proposition, our brain circuitry recognizes it as such and the signals travel through a special mathematical processor that is difficult to access in regular circumstances. This would explain our fear of formulas and other logical constructions, since these neurological pathways are not the common route. Mathematicians seem to use this path as the standard route, so they talk about everyday situations in mathematical terms leaving us lay persons wondering: "What is he talking about?" So when for example a person explains a traffic light in terms of an algorithm, you know you are talking to a mathematician.
His mathematical account of the perfect democracy offered me new insights of which I had not thought of and I believe the implications of these are very important.
Since each article has no relation with the next, it is not a book that you cannot drop, you can read one chapter every now and then. The author chose an alphabetical order for his articles rather than a chronological one. This makes you jump from Aristotle and Euclid to Goedel's theorem, over Pascal's triangle and back to Pi and Pitagoras. In the end I appreciated this approach, since I did not have the impression that the more I read, the more incomprehensible or difficult it would get, I was rather glad that I could return to known terrain like Pitagoras.
All in all this is a highly recommendable book, I just would have liked some topics explained in a little more detail.
Don't get me wrong-"Beyond Numeracy"'s flaws do not make it unworthy of a read. It's a fun book, and one capable of illuminating many topics in math. If you do choose to read the work, however, don't worry too much about skipping a chapter here and there. The short chapters ensure that you don't miss too much, and again, the repetition that I mentioned can get tiresome.
Overall, an interesting read; I have found no better work about math "in general." Paulos is for the most part clear, concise, focused, and capable of relating the subjects of his many chapters to the real world. Good stuff.