The beauty and wisdom of mathematics


That headline made me immediately think of Anathem.

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Kumar Patel:
[reciting the poem ‘The Square Root of 3’]

I fear that I will always be
A lonely number like root three.

A three is all that’s good and right,
Why must my three keep out of sight,

Beneath a vicious square root sign,
I wish instead I were a nine

For nine could thwart this evil trick,
with just some quick arithmetic

I know I’ll never see the sun, as 1.7321
Such is my reality, a sad irrationality.

When hark! What is this I see,
Another square root of a three

Has quietly come waltzing by,
Together now we multiply

To form a number we prefer,
Rejoicing as an integer

We break free from our mortal bonds
And with a wave of magic wands

Our square root signs become unglued
And love for me has been renewed.

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It’s time for a reread of Anathem for me. Just finishing my first read of Plato’s dialogues, and looking forward to catching the themes that went over my head the first time I read Anathem. What a wonderful book, so dense with ideas. I have a ‘soundtrack’, which Neil Stephenson participated in creating, that recreates the aughts from the songs. It’s a little corny, but it’s fun if you are reading the book to sort of imagine what all the fraas and suurs sound like, as Stephenson conceived them. I’ve only read Necronomicon and Anathem, absolutely loved both. Anything else by him you’d recommend?


I love Snow Crash and Diamond Age.

Reamde I liked but it was very long, and I found the little tweaks in Seattle geography to fit the story really jarring. :smile: Odd that they were there, coming from a book written by a local.

Looks great Mr. Pickover. I wholeheartedly support anything that turns people on the the beauty of the natural world, and the joy of a lifelong journey of discovery and learning. Will look into your book as a gift for my daughter.

I am curious about the photographs, does the book contain information about the ideas represented in the individual photographs? It would be awe inspiring if they were explained and contrasted with examples in nature where applicable. Some of the photos definitely looked like they were taken from the natural world, i.e. reptile scales and sunflower?This sort of contrast always appeals to me, as a mathematical have-not, things like the golden ratio or mathematics in music and architecture. It’s inspiring to see how mathematics is represented independently in other arts like music, visual art, architecture etc, and leads one to believe that mathematics is a natural expression and function of human culture, and life in general.

I thought Reamde was awful - it was like three unrelated novels glued together. But that’s as much the editor’s fault as the writer.

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Derp derp, yeah, Cryptonomicon. Will leave the original typo unedited as a testimony to the frailty of the aging and uncaffeinated human brain. I very much liked the narrative style of Cryptonomicon, which I felt took the shadows to ideas in Anathem, which was also hunky dory, because Mr. Stephenson still told a great story with the benefit of also being didactic and thought-provoking. I am sort of hoping the two books you name are somewhere in between.

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I also hope that. Those pictures are beautiful. I think mathematics appreciation is not emphasized enough in standard Western education (which emphasizes dry, flavorless application).

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