Thursday, June 01, 2006


Some authors just don't know when to leave well enough alone.

It's not enough that John Derbyshire taunted the evilicious forces of numeracy with his 2004 tome about Bernhard Reimann's unsolvable math problem. He just had to follow it up with Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra.

As any Math Skeptic knows, algebra is known universally as the most dangerous of all the maths. First, the use of variables creates a dangerous portal to the unknown netherworld of quantum stochasticity, from which any manner of random hideous creature could emerge.

Secondly, the juxtaposition of numbers and letters leaves our poor, innocent letters susceptible to bad influence and peer pressure from the numbers. I mean, one minute you could be solving for y, and the next minute the letters are conspiring the overthrow of human civilization.

Derbyshire takes the book one step deeper into dangertown by fictionalizing some of algebra's evil history. It's not bad enough that he glorifies the many times algebra has led to the downfall of human civilizations, but by delving into the real and imaginary history, he gives algebra plenty of tricksy ideas.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got some feedback for The Math Skeptic? Post it here and keep it civil.