aleph

Author: Amir D. Aczel

Rating: 6/10

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The history of Mathematics is filled with interesting characters and great journeys of discovery.

This is a book that, at face value, promised to take you into one of those fascinating journeys. While the author succeeds for the most part, I'm left with the impression that he could have done better. "The Mystery of the Aleph" concerns the topic of "set theory" in modern mathematics, more precisely the discoveries about the nature of infinity. If you are attracted to questions like "are there more Natural numbers than Irrational numbers" this is the book for you. While the topic, from my limited understanding, has few direct practical applications (other than as basis for mathematics that do), it is nonetheless a fascinating and, as the title implies, mysterious topic. The author does a good job of keeping the concepts simple requiring only a limited knowledge of mathematics to follow the ideas. Conversely, if you are looking for more "meat" and a more rigorous and detailed treatment of the topics, you need to look elsewhere. He describes the lives and contributions of several Mathematicians to this new field of mathematics, most prominently Georg Cantor. This is where unfortunately the narrative starts to feel a bit disjointed and unorganized. Mr Aczel seems to jump back and forth in a somewhat random fashion, often leaving the reader confused about the timeline of events. He then tries to connect this mathematical topic to aspects of religion and mythicism, a connection that he doesn't succeed in making very well, and seems to me would be better left out of the book. Notwithstanding these minor flaws, I still enjoyed reading the book and learned about a number of surprising new results in modern mathematics. If you can overlook some of the minor flaws in this book, it is still a good read.

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