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.
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.