Blog on Math Blogs

Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Keep on Tracking," by Frank Kermode. The Guardian, 18 October 2003.

The reviewer compares and contrasts two new books on the topic of infinity:Brian Clegg's Infinity: the Quest to Think the Unthinkable and DavidFoster Wallace's Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity. Henotes that each book relates the development of mathematical thought,introduces Georg Cantor, and takes a witty approach, but that the authors'methods differ. He describes Clegg's approach as chronological, leading up toCantor, whereas Wallace begins with Cantor and provides background. Thereviewer finds Clegg's book easier to read, and he likes the way Clegg "likesto gossip" about the personalities involved. He notes that Wallace seems tocustomize sections according to his assumptions of how readers with varyingbackgrounds might (or could) proceed reading his book.

--- Annette Emerson