Book Review (Posted on 01-23-2013)
(Note: the version of this book I'm reviewing is the large print paperback—self-published. The critique and review provided may completely be different from other versions of this book.)
If you haven't complied with your resolutions for the new year, and/or still looking for a sure-fire way of getting the first month of the new year off to a strong start, you can do so...by accepting this man's apology. Well, okay, he's actually not "apologizing" and begging for blatant forgiveness but he has provided an excellent tour of what days are like for a mathematician.
The mathematician happens to be the author himself: G.H. Hardy. Although not very famous among the circles of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal and Pythagoras to name a few, he was a British-born man who lived and breathed mathematics since he was a child. Falling under the heading of "A List of A Person's Odd Behaviors," Hardy strongly disliked mirrors and would constantly cover them every time he'd see one. He didn't care about his looks, just his work and his passion (a behavior so rare and uncommon today).
The book is written in short excerpts—twenty-nine of them—jotting down what makes math the most beautiful profession in all of life. He reminds the reader about pardoning his supposed egotism, as he explains his achievements as a mathematician, what makes him successful and what makes him outweigh the others. Through the reading, you also get a feel on the types of math there are: applied and pure. Hardy seems to favor pure mathematics solely based off of its aesthetic value.
"A chair or a star is not in the least like what it seems to be; the more we think of it, the fuzzier its outlines become in the haze of sensation which surrounds it; but '2' and '317' has nothing to do with sensation, and its properties stand out the more clearly the more closely we scrutinize it. It may be that modern physics fits best into some framework of idealistic philosophy—I do not believe it, but there are eminent physicists who say so. Pure mathematics, on the other hand, seems to me a rock on which all idealism founders: 317 is a prime, not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way rather than another, but because it is, because mathematical reality is built that way." (Hardy, 1940, p.39)
Hardy went on to explain why Math was his passion and the definition of what makes a man passionate about the thing he enjoys and why. Math was simply something Hardy knew he could do, and rightfully so because he excels in anything mathematical, then goes on to compare other professions and its contribution to the real world (like physiology). And finally, if you were to read many other books written by mathematicians, nearly all of them agree on one thing: Math is a young man's game. Hardy explains that by old age, one has learned and excelled covering the majority of the math needed and the creativity wears off eventually.
Although a wonderful, basically-written book, some writings suffered serious grammatical errors. I read that unintentional changes and additions of indefinite articles and misspellings are a result of the final printing, making this a tricky read (something I critiqued about on the book Obama Will Win, But Romney Will Be President
). Despite being self-published, both the front and back covers feature a print with a low-quality picture stretched out, resulting in an image with near-heavy pixelation. It is also one of the few books you'll see with nothing written on the spine, so you may try to make a note to yourself that the book with the thin spine is certainly the Apology
book. This isn't that big of an issue, except for the grammatical errors, but the cover prints and no credit given for Hardy's photo, was a tad bothersome. Despite the quality of the cover, it may not hook the eyes of those who've never read the book.
To conclude, I learned the mind of a mathematician and what he sees—life and the world through his mind's eye. It may not be all symbols, operators and numbers but the art that encompasses the work of problem solving and the purity of the subject's properties. As for this print, this book is a cheaper alternative, though I'd strongly recommend a much better copy than this. Nevertheless, Math isn't what you think and it's not just meant for super geniuses. Math is an art and you'll learn why with this book.
(Hardy's contribution to math was his famous Hardy notation—the Big O notation. Click here
to read all about it. Opens new tab/window.)
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