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Numbers

July 31, 2006

I recently finished reading Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. Very nice book. It reminded me that mathematics is indeed a language, and as such must be seen not as the truth—but “a lie we agree to recite to each other.” One would never say that English or French were “true,” but we make this mistake with math. There are proofs after all! Well I am no more impressed with them than I was in high school when I first learned them. This probably was not what Seife intended, but such is the lot of the author. It is a book well worth reading, and probably you will not come to my conclusions after reading it. By the way, it also struck me that the most “real” numbers are the irrational ones: pi, the golden ratio, etc.: numbers that don’t really every end!

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