## Find a copy in the library

Finding libraries that hold this item...

## Details

Material Type: | Internet resource |
---|---|

Document Type: | Book, Internet Resource |

All Authors / Contributors: |
Mario Livio |

ISBN: | 9780743294058 074329405X |

OCLC Number: | 209694006 |

Description: | x, 308 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm |

Contents: | A mystery -- Mystics : the numerologist and the philosopher -- Magicians : the master and the heretic -- Magicians : the skeptic and the giant -- Statisticians and probabilists : the science of uncertainty -- Geometers : future shock -- Logicians : thinking about reasoning -- Unreasonable effectiveness? -- On the human mind, mathematics, and the universe. |

Responsibility: | Mario Livio. |

More information: |

### Abstract:

## Reviews

*Editorial reviews*

Publisher Synopsis

"Theologians have God, philosophers existence, and scientists mathematics. Mario Livio makes the case for how these three ideas might be related...Livio's rich history gives the discussions human force and verve."-- Sam Kean, "New Scientist" Read more...

*User-contributed reviews*

### WorldCat User Reviews (1)

#### discovery or invention? both.

'Is God a Mathematician?' explores the philosophical status of mathematics. The underlying question for much of the book is: is math a human invention or is it a reality (or for Pythagoras, the real Reality) that mathematicians explore and within which they make discoveries. Of particular interest...

**
Read more...
**

'Is God a Mathematician?' explores the philosophical status of mathematics. The underlying question for much of the book is: is math a human invention or is it a reality (or for Pythagoras, the real Reality) that mathematicians explore and within which they make discoveries. Of particular interest to him is the point some have made that mathematical models often match real world observations to an uncanny degree.

Anyway, the book starts out with the Pythagorean religion. Pythagoras and his academy worshiped numbers, and one of their tenets was that all non-whole numbers are rational. I had thought that the member of his religious group who proved that irrational numbers exist was actually put to death, but Livio corrects me. The Pythagorean who proved the existence of irrational numbers was banished from the group, and, when he died, they did not allow his body to be buried in their cemetery. Much less dramatic.

Then Livio discusses Plato and Archimedes. He jumps, as many do, over the Arabs, the Mayans and the Chinese, and then discusses Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. His point is the development of a physics in which math and observation match to an uncanny degree. I like to read biographies of historical scientists, so this part was not new to me. In fact, I felt that Livio did not do as well as many other biographers and historians here. Of course, he has to fit it into one volume, but it still seems mechanical. The problem is that he digresses from his thesis into biography, but he doesn't go far enough into the biography for it to be very interesting. So in terms of the thesis, I recommend reading the first three chapters, then jumping to the last three. One chapter that I could take or leave (fourth from the end) is the one on probability and statistics. It contributes to the thesis, but he could have shortened it for that purpose. I skimmed some of the chapters, so I am not 100% sure, but I don't think he discussed enough the impact of Chaos Theory on Laplacean determinism. He mentions quantum mechanics as a source of indeterminacy, but I think Chaos Theory is more important.

Toward the latter part of the book, he explores the non-Euclidean geometries of the nineteenth century which broke the spell of Newtonian inevitability surrounding math's correspondence to physical reality. What did it mean to have multiple valid geometries? That gets the reader back to the thesis. Livio then has a chapter on the logicians who tried to systematize math, ending with Godel's proof that math cannot be both complete and consistent, again questioning the status of math.

The last chapter returns again to the thesis: is math invented or discovered? Livio makes an analogy to chess: the basic rules are invented, but that invention then creates a realm which is then explored for interesting patterns and ideas. So he argues that it is both invented and discovered. He then deals with the unreasonable correspondence between math and some aspects of physical phenomena by pointing out that sometimes math does not easily correspond to phenomena. Social sciences are often satisfied by weak statisical correlations. Biological phenomena are often not well modelled by math. (One could add that even in physics, if the equations are too non-linear, they cannot be predicted well, like the weather.) So math is not always unreasonably correspondent. It is only when the phenomena happen to be following the same rules as the equations. In general, I agree with his thesis, but if you throw out of the book the biographical anecdotes that have been better written by others, it would amount to a long article.

Personally, I read and prefer his book called 'The equation that could not be solved' about Abel and Galois. There he had the time to get into more interesting biographical anecdotes.

- Was this review helpful to you?

## Tags

## Similar Items

### Related Subjects:(4)

- Mathematics -- Philosophy.
- Logic, Symbolic and mathematical.
- Mathematicians -- Psychology.
- Discoveries in science.

### User lists with this item (8)

- Things to Check Out(10 items)
by kumoarashian updated 2015-06-08
- OLLI Physics Class(15 items)
by ehousewright updated 2014-05-28
- Non Fiction to read(69 items)
by djnevin updated 2012-11-20
- Books to Read - Non-Fiction(58 items)
by hp6smiles updated 2012-03-09