June Selection: Taming the Infinite by Ian Stewart

At our June 2016 meeting we will discuss a selection by Mohsen:

Ian Stewart, Taming the Infinite, Quercus Publishing, 2008.

Mohsen provides the following information about his selection:
My first hope was to do a book of some sort about the real economy, the economy of everyday people, as nowadays is called the “minimum wage”, no my plan was not to challenge the economic difficulties of the most every day people, rather an understanding of how the lawfully regulated economical standards set forth are the greatest force behind the minimum wage working class, specially in the materialistic crazed western societies.

Then I encountered this book while flying to Tampa Florida couple of years ago, as my next seat neighbor, a female student accountant from Tacoma and I engaged in book reading conversations, me sharing my read choices and she hers, so we swapped books while en-route, me reading hers and she reading mine.

Shortly after reading the first few pages I became convinced that I needed to read it in it’s entirety, and began researching the importance of Mathematics and numbers in our everyday life. Then shortly after “Quantum Moment” I thought it would make a great company to some of our recent reads and discussions.

So, not to copy-cat any recent selections, I thought, a bit of homework if you would, “no, not a math solving problem” but 3 things that each person things depends on numbers &/or mathematical events that have helped change/shape our world or would not have meant as much if it were not for math & numbers, to enlighten the book’s discussion.

So instead of much focus on the book, each individual should share his perspective of their choices, such as; did numbers and numbering our commodities make humans more possessive and greedy? or help organize humans to the now civil cultural liberties? What significance does numbering have to do with our way of life?

I think this book represents a bit Mathematics, History, or Finance, an example is “MONEY”, how we use it to evaluate our subjects of interest (goods, product), attach a evaluative number next to it and then barter, make purchases, whether a car, television, groceries, or any other product, this also includes the earlier life before actual print money, when people traded goods based on it proposed values.

Then there is another scenario, we use un-sequential numbering methods that are in constant reverse order, where lower numbers represent higher values and higher numbers represent lower values, such is true in high technological and electrical fields. Hope you enjoy the read, though, and I hope our discussion will surpass our expectations, a different approach ending the past year’s great reads.



About Ron Boothe

I am a retired professor of psychology living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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2 Responses to June Selection: Taming the Infinite by Ian Stewart

  1. Mohsen Mirghanbari says:

    Knowledge is made of our everyday experiences and like a uni-lateral partnership whether inadvertently or by means of necessity we share our experiences regardless of the knowledge, thus with each generation every person with his or her need or interest make use of it.

    It is not made of any material world, rather able to make material from it, it’s uniqueness can not be measured by what we have learned now, rather by how we not know, it does not have limitations, rather with each material becomes.

    However, as humans accumulate knowledge they felt the need to perhaps organize and then store it promptly, perhaps our categorizing our knowledge first, then organizing it before we store away our learning.

    Sure there are always inconsistencies in both learning and teaching, however without fault to either side of spectrum, you are encouraged to make any correction seem deemed so as long as it’s done discreetly.

    We always engage in many meaningful conversations, however, we always hear the now generation credit themselves for all their amenities and forget that there were many contributors and helping hands beforehand, and among scientific conversations, we hear a very puzzling claim, “that humans today are at a peak of knowledge like never before, as if the world has come to it’s final resting place.

    Of all the modern claims man can make is that we are at a level of knowledge like never before, while the modern man can amuse himself with such claims, one must ask himself how did humans come about all this knowledge.

    Ian Stewart is correct to say mathematics has developed into a broad and varied area of human thought, including science, industry, commerce and even arts, therefore, I think it is the same concept that has allowed humans to design and build machines that no longer require us to manually calculate our thoughts.

    However, if mathematics and numbers are so influential in our everyday lives, then how is it that we no longer require its learning and are we correct to presume that it is no longer vital to our thinking needs, or have we become more reliant on the human conception that machines are to replace our thinking.

    David G. states that people can live their lives without numbers, as they numb some people as numbering is not important as humanizing with words and ideas. He also suggest pulling the plug on machines and plugging our hearts instead.

    As numbing as it may seem, Innumeracy has taken a place in almost every aspect of our everyday living, though difficult to pinpoint which numbering system is the most numbing, perhaps the value of “TIME” and it’s numbering system rank among the top three.

    Then how ironic that Richard S. reminded me of something that has greater psychological effect on humans then their spiritual belief, Perhaps since the birth of religion man has made two numbering predictions, first with the date of life’s beginning and then the end. Not to confuse this with scientific research findings.

    We humans use time to predict our life’s beginning right to its end, time is used to organize our everyday living from dawn to dusk, we have even made a time-machine aligning its every tick to keep us organized, shaping every event we engage in with precise accuracy, we assume to maximize our usage of our presumptuous lives.

    Distance and Monetary numbering values should rank among the most important numeric uses, as each is responsible for changing human life, with their arrival before organized engineering, has helped shape human life like no other numeric proportion.
    “Distance” numerics could be placed right with “Time” as each work either hand in hand or side by side, we connect our Universes with distance and then apply time to travel our journeys, and in modern times man’s travel calculation is also attached to those traveling missiles to reach their destructive destinies with such mathematical arithmetic precision.

    Sometimes it is called “the cause of all evil, however “Monetary” numbers have given man a fictional sense of values and to some extent a self proclaimed heroism, yet without it man may not have advanced as rapidly as it has, and while its advancement may seem “doomed”, It is from the everyday bartering among everyday people and to the larger scale commodity trades and exchanges among the society’s big players that humans derive their passion for life.

    “Chemistry” may be the mother of all Universe’s physical elements and without it life may not have existed or may have been very different, however, without mathematics and innumeracy it may not have advanced as we know it today.

    It was also with the human population growth that came the urge to organize and then the greed that followed, help create innumeracy and mathematics which allowed societies to create and customize their individual needs and beyond.

    Numbering every human from birth, and onto war battlefields, we have given mathematics an importance second to none. Perhaps without it man may not have been as keen making war machines, from ancient times to this very moment. From Archimedes of Syracuse to Albert Einstein.


  2. Richard Smaby says:

    Here is a nice explanation of the Riemann sphere, for those interested in exploring it more.
    It will be interesting to discuss the potential social impact of mathematics beyond arithmetic. Defining mathematics as that which can be conceived opens that discussion wide open, where we define conceived as susceptible to being made precise.
    I agree with the author of Taming the Infinite that the idea of an invariant is an amazing human achievement. And deserves to have an impact at least as great as quantum physics.
    I hope we can contribute to the understanding of the potential of invariants.

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