Friday, June 24, 2016

Review of How Big is Infinity? By Tony Crilly

This is genuinely a mathematics book for the layman. There are putatively many books on mathematics for the layman but once you start reading them, they are so specialized that you need to be at least an undergraduate to understand them. This is not so for this book. You will be able to comprehend most of this book with just GCSE mathematics background.
The book has the subtitle ‘The 20 Big Maths Questions’ which refers to the 20 chapters (sections) the book is divided into. Each of these 20 question headings are a good hook for any reader such as ‘What is mathematics for?, Are Statistics lies?, Is mathematics beautiful? Moreover, the content under these questions is pertinent and interesting.
The book is a very incisive and lucid reminiscence of important questions of mathematics. It also includes some history of mathematics and manages to describe the latest work in mathematics research.
My only reservation is that many of the applications and mathematics itself has been discussed in a number of different books over time. However, the book is a good blend of erudition and entertainment.
It doesn’t matter how many times you check, recheck a mathematics book, errors and typos always manage to creep in. Here is list of I picked up:
Page 17; The prize money (for the Poincare conjecture) should be in dollars, not pounds.
Page 58; The last digit in the value of e to six decimal places should be 2 and not 1.
Page 116; we draw in the third paragraph is repeated twice.
Page 122: Solve is misspelt as Sove in the penultimate paragraph.

Page 269; The left-hand side of the infinite series should say π/4 and not π. 

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