Nov 14 2008

The Infinite Book

Published by at 2:43 pm under Books

“A short guide to the boundless, timeless, and endless”
by John D. Barrow

While written by a Cambridge mathematician, this book is a totally non mathematical overview of the idea of “infinity”. It does start by discussing mathematical concept of infinity but moves onto scientific and philosophical connections to the concept. It was fun, easy to read, and informative.

The first and foremost message in the book is that “infinity” is not just a large number which is probably how most people think of it. Infinity is qualitatively different from any (very large) number or finite collection of numbers. In fact it has odd properties that lead to ‘paradoxes’ that confuse people and led some mathematicians to decide proper math, and the real world, didn’t include infinity. The ‘odd’ properties have many implications that the book tries to identify and elucidate. The author has more than a passing familiarity with mathematical physics as many of his examples and explorations touch infinities in the physical sciences. Infinitely many expanding universes that can be imagined via “string theory”. What would time without out end, an infinite life, be like (all possible things happen an infinite number of time; not much fun?). All sorts of concepts and paradoxes are discussed. Infinities, if they exist in the real world, are weird things.

Fun and easy to read.

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