Product Author Bios
Donald E. Knuth is known throughout the world for his pioneering work on algorithms and programming techniques, for his invention of the Tex and Metafont systems for computer typesetting, and for his prolific and influential writing. Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University, he currently devotes full time to the completion of these fascicles and the seven volumes to which they belong.
Nearly 30 years ago, John Horton Conway introduced a new way to construct numbers. Donald E. Knuth, in appreciation of this revolutionary system, took a week off from work on The Art of Computer Programming to write an introduction to Conway's method. Never content with the ordinary, Knuth wrote this introduction as a work of fiction--a novelette. If not a steamy romance, the book nonetheless shows how a young couple turned on to pure mathematics and found total happiness.
The book's primary aim, Knuth explains in a postscript, is not so much to teach Conway's theory as "to teach how one might go about developing such a theory." He continues: "Therefore, as the two characters in this book gradually explore and build up Conway's number system, I have recorded their false starts and frustrations as well as their good ideas. I wanted to give a reasonably faithful portrayal of the important principles, techniques, joys, passions, and philosophy of mathematics, so I wrote the story as I was actually doing the research myself."... It is an astonishing feat of legerdemain. An empty hat rests on a table made of a few axioms of standard set theory. Conway waves two simple rules in the air, then reaches into almost nothing and pulls out an infinitely rich tapestry of numbers that form a real and closed field. Every real number is surrounded by a host of new numbers that lie closer to it than any other "real" value does. The system is truly "surreal." quoted from Martin Gardner, Mathematical Magic Show, pp. 16--19
Surreal Numbers, now in its 13th printing, will appeal to anyone who might enjoy an engaging dialogue on abstract mathematical ideas, and who might wish to experience how new mathematics is created.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Couldn't put it down.,
This review is from: Surreal Numbers (Paperback)This little book, written as a "novel", actually tries to show us that each of us is actually able to be an amature mathematician, and that "pure mathematics" is not that complicated once you get down to the rules.
For readers familiar with group theory notations, this is an easy and fun read.
Byeond the superlatives given all over to the nice and simple manner in which the number system is built in front of our eyes, I would also like to add I have noticed some ideas Knuth wanted the readers to absorb by reading this book of his:
* People too much into civilization need time off to "rest".
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A fun way to read about a formal mathematical construction.,
This review is from: Surreal Numbers (Paperback)First of all, a word of advice for the future readers of this book. Do not read it for its story. From the literary point of view, it's bad. Perhaps the only type of reader that will benefit or enjoy this book is the mathematical one.
In this book, you will find an exposition of a construction of a special number system (formally, a proper class of number systems). However, this exposition does not follow the formal or even traditional method employed in most mathematics books. It is told in form of a story. Two characters find a stone inscribed with the axioms of the construction of some "surreal numbers" and spend the whole book thinking what these axioms mean in some intuitive way.
In a mathematician's perspective (rather, my own), it is very entertaining. The characters' point of view is just as that of two mathematicians talking about some problem. And the construction is very interesting from a mathematician's point of view. So, yet again, for a... Read more
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An amusing book that details an interesting subject in math,
This review is from: Surreal Numbers (Paperback)This book, written in Knuth's classic style, employs a unique dialog to guide the reader through the derivation of the fascinating mathematical topic of surreal numbers. Its short length and humor makes it a must for any math fan interested in the methods used for deriving new concepts in math, and the exercises included make it a useful book for math teachers interested in giving something new to their students. All said, a lovely book.
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