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One to Nine: The Inner Life of Numbers Hardcover – May 17, 2008

2.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A frank acknowledgment that anything I wrote was bound to resemble Constance Reid's seminal From Zero to Infinity doesn't stop mathematician and biographer Hodges (Alan Turing: The Enigma) from boldly launching into his own rather disjointed explanation of the place of the numbers one through nine in mathematics and (primarily Western) culture. Pop culture references and political topics such as global warming, presumably meant to make terms like quantum of existence a little less scary to the novice, appear alongside subjects of more interest to math nerds (the author debunks the common assumption that mathematicians are male, overweight and perennially single). Some knowledge of mathematical vocabulary and history is necessary to fully appreciate Hodges's merry skipping from one subject to another—a single page mentions Vonnegut's fiction... Plato's aesthetics, Euclid's pentagons, Fibonacci's rabbits [and] the inspiration of Islamic art and its parallels in Kepler—but even the most halfhearted former math major will find a lot of familiar topics, like Schrödinger's cat and the equivalence of 1 with 0.99999.... The result is not entirely satisfying to either numerophobes or numerophiles. 40 illus. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Cartographer for the land of numbers, Hodges here maps out an exhilarating journey, converting the simple trip from one to nine into an excursion through enchanting territory, pausing at lookout points commanding stunning intellectual vistas. Before they even visit the philosophical quandary of “One-ness,”  readers are already pondering that curious Indian invention—zero—that made possible the unexpectedly powerful system of place notation! As Hodges guides his readers through the familiar counting sequence, every number yields up astonishing surprises. Two, for instance, opens up the mystery of symmetry—and the conundrum of symmetry-defying time. Five illuminates the quasicrystals that have revolutionized solid-state physics. And eight exposes the workings of byte-based computer logic. Regardless of the number in view, Hodges writes with wonderful lucidity, inviting general readers to share in treasures too often surrendered entirely to specialists. Proffering insights not only into scientific realms such as physics and chemistry but also into history and literature, this book will win over even readers who suppose they hate math. --Bryce Christensen
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (May 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039306641X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066418
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,335,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G. E. Watson on September 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am enjoying the book a lot, but bewarned--you may not get a lot of the references he makes if you don't a some math background. I have undergraduate degrees in math and physics and I needed that to understand some of the details. Hodges discusses a lot more than just the numbers. For example he uses the number eight (one byte) as an excuse to discuss a lot about computers and computing with many (interesting) references to the ideas of Alan Turing (about whom he wrote a book). Many of the other chapters also wander into areas you might not have guessed were related to that number--but that's not a bad thing. I recommend the book to readers who haven't forgotten all their algebra.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always enjoyed math and use numbers constantly in making illustrations about everyday events. I won't tell you not to try this book as much of the material is fascinating! However, in spite of my mathematical background, I found that most of the material was too abstract for my feeble mind. I had trouble comprehending some of the concepts that were presented as being fairly simple. Hopefully, you are smarter than I am and will enjoy this book. If you struggle with numbers to begin with, I would suggest something more basic.
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Format: Paperback
Oxford Fellow Andrew Hodges, who wrote the very well received biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma (1992), uses--rather quixotically I might say--the one to nine format to delve into the world of mathematics. His emphasis is on number theory, mathematics as applied to physics, and mathematics as applied to cryptology. The text is difficult, and the puzzles strewn throughout, whether labeled, EASY, GENTLE, TOUGH, HARD, TRICKY or DEADLY, proved mostly too difficult for this non-mathematician.

For those readers versed in number theory, that branch of mathematics in which numbers are explored purely for their own sake without even the dream of a practical application, this book is probably a delight. And for cryptologists it is probably a double delight since Hodges explores in some considerable depth the delicious irony of how pure mathematics became contaminated, as it were, when it was noticed some years ago that the encryption of messages could be facilitated by using very large numbers with unique divisors. While it is easy to multiply two even very large numbers and get a unique result it is enormously difficult to find the unique factors that make up a very large number.

At any rate that is my understanding. And if I have gotten it wrong it is only because I am not much of a mathematician. Which brings me to the central criticism of this book. To put it bluntly I don't think anyone but a mathematician can fully appreciate Andrew Hodges' text. It's that difficult. Additionally, Hodges, who is a physicist as well as a mathematician, brings string and twistor theory into the fray further multiplying the difficulties for the general reader.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the author's quick pace through pure and applied mathematical concepts.

I suspect One to Nine's limited appeal (several poor reviews on Amazon) may stem from the material containing a bit too much applied science for most mathematicians, and too much math theory for someone without a substantial mathematical background. As an engineer by education, I know just enough math to be dangerous and feel very comfortable with the physics, chemistry, or other applied science references in the book.

The friends of mine that have read One to Nine also liked it. I would recommend it to someone with a mathematically based science degree, such as most engineering degrees.
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Format: Paperback
I have the basic education to digest this book and I'm of the same 'vintage' as the author so I can see his mind set. This book should never have made it past the editor's desk. It's a good start but it needs serious work with respect to organization etc.
It's more like the author's conversation with himself - that's it - it reads like a blog!! Except it isn't one so I cannot blast the author when he gets too full of himself or wanders hopelessly far from his premise (which is often hard to determine.)
The book is an entertaining read, though, in small chunks, as bed time reading.

It's been a long time since it took me as long to finish a book as this one is taking!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One To Nine: The Inner Life of Numbers

The title, One to Nine The Inner Life of Numbers, suggests a book of note. The book, though, appears to be only a mish mash of information from the author's weekly newspaper column in the Observer on mathematical topics. The author indulges himself with comments regarding politics and society and does not appear to know his audience. His text is arrogant and wanders without direction. That is a pity, because the topic should have been an interesting one. Not only is the book poorly written, the book is also poorly typeset. Word spacing is inconsistent which makes the text difficult to read.

When I completed this book, I had to ask myself why I bothered. I found this to be one of the worst books that I have read in the past 60 years. Waste neither your money nor your time on this book.
Not recommended.
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