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Are Numbers Real?: The Uncanny Relationships Between Maths and the Physical World

Brian Clegg

7 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Popular science

An in-depth but always fun exploration of the history of numbers and their applications in life and science. Brian Clegg shows how maths has become more and more detached from reality, despite driving the development of modern physics.

Have you ever wondered what humans did before numbers existed? How they organized their lives, traded goods, or kept track of their treasures? What would your life be like without them?

Numbers began as simple representations of everyday things, but mathematics rapidly took on a life of its own, occupying a parallel virtual world. In ARE NUMBERS REAL? Brian Clegg explores the way that maths has become more and more detached from reality, yet despite this is driving the development of modern physics.

From devising a new counting system based on goats, through the weird and wonderful mathematics of imaginary numbers and infinity to the debate over whether mathematics has too much influence on the direction of science, this fascinating and accessible book opens the reader's eyes to the hidden reality of the strange yet familiar world of numbers.

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Praise for Are Numbers Real?: The Uncanny Relationships Between Maths and the Physical World

  • Praise for the author

  • Writers who understand science but, at least as importantly, are gifted communicators. George Musser, and Brian Clegg, on this side of the pond, are two that spring to mind. - Literary Review

  • He still manages to surprise me with something new on every page. - Mail on Sunday

  • Clegg's enthusiasm is catching, his science immaculate. - The Good Book Guide

  • In ARE NUMBERS REAL? Clegg tackles a very deep question in his usual way; with clarity, wit and a wonderfully clear narrative writing style. For me, numbers are like natural language: they obviously don't exist in a physical sense - you cannot trip over the number '2' in the street - yet numbers are at the heart of understanding the universe. Clegg covers a wide variety of subjects to seek out the truth of the matter in an engaging and hugely accessible way. I personally couldn't put it down, and as an active researcher in the field itself, it has provided me with some very real food for thought. - Amazon

  • A compact, very readable, and highly entertaining history of the development and use of mathematics to answer the important practical questions involved in advancing civilization . . . [a] sense of wonder permeates the entire book. There are courses in music appreciation and art appreciation, and if there is ever an institution with the good sense to create a course in math appreciation, this is absolutely the book I would want to see used for it. And that doesn't even include the historical insights and sidelights that add to the pleasure of reading this book . . .

  • a superb introduction to mathematics, science, and that branch of philosophy devoted to exploring the nature of reality.

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Brian Clegg

BRIAN CLEGG is a prize-winning science writer with a physics degree from Cambridge and a masters in the mathematical discipline operational research. He has written over 20 science books and articles for newspapers and magazines from The Observer and Wall Street Journal to BBC Focus and Playboy. He lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and two children.

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