Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review of The Numerati

I reviewed Stephen Baker's book, The Numerati, for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, and you can read it here.


Dan said...

Sounds like there's some attempt to make all the mathematics involved seem just too complicated and "magical" to understand, even though the basic concepts almost surely are not. Just what the popular image of mathematics/computer science needs...

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

I just read your review on my hard copy of the Notices. Thanks for it, it'll save me from even looking at it next time I'm at the bookstore.

I agree with your opening statement that it is possible for a nonmathematician to write both accurately and entertainingly about mathematics, in a way that his/her book is interesting both for a mathematician and everybody else. Here is an example:
King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry, by Siobhan Roberts. Roberts is a young freelance writer and journalist, not a mathematician. Yet, her biography of Coxeter is a pure delight. What strikes me is that it seems that she did make the effort to understand what Geometry and the Geometry of Coxeter is about. She did not write a boring biography, but one that provides interesting reading for everyone, mathematician or not.

I found your quote about Hawkins amusing: that he was told that each equation would have the sales. This is country-dependent. On the other side of the Chunnel, in France, a colleague mathematician (whose name I cannot mention now) is currently writing a book about a particular period of mathematics and want to keep the formulas at a very minimum level. The publisher is urging him to include more formulas in his book because he believes this will boost up the sales!