Skip to main content

Introducing Infinity – Brian Clegg & Oliver Pugh ****

I have to be honest, I absolutely loved Brian Clegg’s A Brief History of Infinity, which was one of the first books I reviewed for this site nearly ten years ago (can’t believe it’s so long!), so I was a little wary about this book – especially as it is illustrated. I’m no fan of the illustrated form, which so often seems a way of filling pages cheaply.
To be fair to Oliver Pugh, he does an excellent job, and the illustrations in this format are so integral to the look and feel that no one could accuse them of being padding. They add richness to the content that helps the reader absorb the content: I’m going to look out for more in this series.
As for the text itself, it is rather simplified when compared with the full length book. It isn’t possible to get the same level of entertaining detail, nor to really explain some of the more obscure aspects of the study of infinity. However, in all fairness, the Introducing book does a very good job of opening the reader’s eyes to the wonders of infinity. Where it works best is where the illustrations integrate with the text produce a seamless whole – for example in the exploration of the basics of set theory, which benefits much from this approach. I did raise an eyebrow, though, at the apparently straight-faced acceptance of the alleged Chinese set of ‘things that look like a fly when seen from a distance’ which I have always thought was a joke by Jorge Luis Borges.
If you want to dip into infinity and get an introduction to what it’s all about, you can’t beat this book. It does exactly what it says on the cover. For a more in-depth exploration, go for A Brief History of Infinity.
Paperback:  
Review by Peter Spitz
Please note, this title is co-written by the editor of the Popular Science website. Our review is still an honest opinion – and we could hardly omit the book – but do want to make the connection clear.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…