Blog on Math Blogs

Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Ground Zero: A Review of The Pleasures of Counting, by T. W. Koerner,"by David Berlinski. The Sciences, July/August 1997, pages 37-41.

This spirited, provocative, and highly readable piece is not so much a reviewas a discourse on the conundrum of mathematics. Berlinski praises Koerner'sbook for its conversational tone and clear explanations. He also remarks thatthe book is mistitled, for it is not really about counting but about theastonishing uses of mathematics, especially in computing. The book is aimed atthe general public, but not the mathematically fearful---which, according toBerlinski, is most of us. "Most human beings loathe mathematics, their fear asnatural, unforced and instinctive as their fear of snakes," he writes. AsBerlinski sees it, "mathematics is a landscape without landmarks, an endlesscollection of points, peaks and problems." No wonder people are afraid of it.

--- Allyn Jackson