- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (January 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 046501481X
- ISBN-13: 978-0465014811
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #814,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements 1st Edition
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*Starred Review* “As dazzling as first love” is how Bertrand Russell described his initial encounter with Euclid. As a mathematician who understands what Russell felt, Berlinski guides his readers through the intellectual wonderland that the ancient Greek geometer created in his epoch-making treatise, the Elements. In writing at once geometrically precise and disarmingly conversational, Berlinski explores the imposing edifice that Euclid erected on a foundation of just five deceptively simple axioms. Each of these axioms receives careful scrutiny, allowing readers to share in the excitement of mapping out the dimensions of an audacious new human enterprise, inscribing sharp boundaries around key concepts yet opening onto the infinite. Only an author who thinks both mathematically and philosophically could infer—as Berlinski does—the intellectual and even moral substance of the mental perspective that Euclid unfolds. Readers thus come to realize how Euclid’s pioneering thought made possible the rigor of a mathematical proof—and the discipline of a mathematical life. Even in the revolutionary modern theorizing of non-Euclidian geometers such as Lobachevsky, Bolyai, and Poincaré, readers will discern Euclid’s abiding influence as a visionary who glimpsed the mathematical unities hidden beneath chaotic appearances. An impressively concise distillation of the wizardry that transforms points, lines, and planes into sheer genius. --Bryce Christensen
Reading this brief, lively work is like sitting with the author in a French café with too many carafes of red wine and the smoke of hundreds of Gauloises swirling inside your head."
The New Yorker
Lively .Berlinski guides us through an austere world of shapes and numbers with enthusiasm, assurance, and mischievous humor. He presents difficult ideas in straightforward terms, even when he moves into the strange and forbidding realm of non-Euclidean geometry.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
In this brief, accessible foray, popular math/science writer Berlinski breathes life into an ancient mathematician and the world of axioms and theorems he createda geometric world that became the basis for much of modern math, from analytic geometry to the idea of curved space-time . Even the most math-averse [will] be enthralled by Berlinski's rich, vibrant language . Berlinski's book succeeds not only as a history of geometry but also as an exploration of the power of ideas, masterfully replacing cold abstraction with humor and humanity.”
Booklist, Starred Review
In writing at once geometrically precise and disarmingly conversational, Berlinski explores the imposing edifice that Euclid erected on a foundation of just five deceptively simple axioms . An impressively concise distillation of the wizardry that transforms points, lines, and planes into sheer genius.”
Berlinski has produced a volume that will entertain and enlighten many of today's readerseven those who do not treasure their memories of geometry class.”
The Weekly Standard
Written with David Berlinski's characteristic mix of hothouse prose and standup comedy.”
[A] pared and elegant homage to the peerless geometer [Euclid] and his magnum opus.”
New York Journal of Books
For anyone who cares about Euclid, geometry, the philosophy of mathematics and most especially, for those who appreciate fine writing.”
Top customer reviews
I teach mathematics at a school for some of the most intellectually advanced students in the world. I am always looking for ways to help my students discover the world beyond their curriculum...to understand the *why* and the wonder of a particular subject. To ask the big questions. To inspire and nurture their love of mathematics. Berlinski's book fits the bill.
Geometry is particularly useful for nurturing critical thinking and logic, and Euclid is its patriarch. In a Geometry class many years ago, I challenged my students with the notion that "there are no circles in the material universe." This intrigued one of my students in particular, and for weeks she was asking follow-up questions as the notions wrought her intellect. One profound notion, and she became a critical thinker. Now, she is an astrophysicist. Never underestimate the life-changing power of a big idea. And Geometry...particularly a la Euclid...is teeming with big morsels.
Berlinski really gets this, and his own joy glows in his prose. Berlinski communicates about mathematics like Feynman communicates about physics. Both of them see the big picture, but relish in the details. In one portion Berlinski notes the connection between Platonic forms and Euclid's geometry:
"Mathematicians often draw a distinction between concrete and abstract models of Euclidean geometry. In the abstract models of Euclidean geometry, shapes enjoy a pure Platonic existence. The concrete models are in the physical world. Freeways masquerade as straight lines, ink drops as points, amphitheaters as circles, and planetary orbits as ellipses."
Berlinski also notes that Euclid not only systematized several key ideas...he also recognized that the ideas themselves *could* be organized. This has had a profound and foundational effect on the history of Western civilization. Of course, Berlinski is not the first to recognize this. But how refreshing and what a pleasure to read the prose of someone who thinks in big ideas and *also* write so wryly and skillfully about them.
I agree with Berlinski that when it comes to geometry, no one does it better than Euclid. After all, the elements has remained vivid and relevant for over two millenia, with a profound effect on the Western world. Every literate thinker should spend some quality time in Euclid's classroom. From a modern classroom pedagogical point of view, I think Jacob's "Geometry" (ISBN-13: 978-0716717454) is also quite practical, basically following Euclid's methods. This year, my students will experience all three books. It's gonna be fun.
Well done, Dr. Berlinski!
I cannot say that I fully enjoyed this book, nor would I say that I disliked it. In fact, it made me think, and it awoke my curiosity not only for Euclid, the man and the work, but also for the field of geometry itself and that is quite a feat!
Even if you do not like all the abstract language and the geometrical shapes and forms, there are some very interesting observations on time and space, including a chapter on paintings frozen both in time and space! It may not be an entertaining read, but it is educational and rewarding in the end.