“Number: The Language of Science” by Tobias Dantzig is a book for the inner ‘ math nut in you. The author details the birth of mathematics among the sciences and pulls curtain back on math’s not so perfect upbringing.
I am not a math girl. I’m in math club called the “Social Mathematics Experiment” here in prison and our teacher, an actual math nut (Christopher Havens) challenged the group to read this book and orate a book review. So here we are. I will admit this book had me doggie paddling in the ocean with some real big swells and most of the mathematical concepts that are detailed out I did not understand. But the historical aspect Dantzig presents kept me interested enough to read words in groups and take in formulas I did not and still do not comprehend.
Below are 3 quotes from the book that sort of tell the reader where my interests really connected and while I am embarrassed I cannot repeat to you how Cantor’s contributions to mathematics shaped how we understand the world I can say this:
1.) “…it is not easy to deny the existence of something that has received a name.” Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science
2.) “Remove the barrier, extend the field, and the impossible becomes possible.” Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science
3.) “By trying and erring, by groping and stumbling- so progressed our knowledge.” Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science
I connected with the 2nd and 3rd quotes for a much different reason than the 1st. Quotes 2 and 3 spoke to an imagination within me that I appreciated. I spent hours during quarantine scribbling number sequences and using dimensional subtraction to understand patterns and create something artistic but mathematical and what I ended up with is pure delight. For instance, if you the mixed fraction 1 1/2 and put an exponent of 0 on it and create a whole set of them with incrementally larger exponents (i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3,…etc) by the time you get to the power off 10 we have a decimal that is large enough it makes you rethink handwriting any more. They were certainly large enough that my ambition to write to the 30th power was rethought and divided by 3. Nonetheless, using dimensional subtraction on those decimal places revealed a neat pattern to me, one which I shall let the reader find on their own.
In the end this book created within me a spark of connection with math because it allowed me to see that math is not a subject already created and is left to be read about and utilized by the fewly gifted but something to create from our minds to understand the world. Mathematics is born from “trying and erring…” like me. Like me, I have a name, Ruth and it is hard to deny my existence because here I am, with a name, like Mathematics has a name, Mathematics. It exists and while it presents this perfect front that wills the most talented a mind to engage with it, just below the surface it is very fragile. Kinda like me.
Yeah, Math…me and you are gonna be alright.