As numbers obviously don’t exist in a physical sense - you can't trip over the number ‘2’ in the street - one might conclude that, as in the language case, numbers exist only in thought. To answer such things one might decide to conduct an experiment, to observe the reasoning process. Sadly, to do so is like observing which slit a particle passes through in the famous double-slit experiment from quantum mechanics; when an observation is made, the effect of the observation crashes the experiment. It would seem that the machine (the mind) cannot watch itself in operation and observe its own subtle workings.
In Are Numbers Real? Clegg tackles what is a very deep question in his usual way: with clarity, wit and a wonderfully clear narrative writing style. Not only does he tackle a wide variety of subjects to seek out the truth of the matter, he does so in an engaging and hugely accessible way. I personally couldn’t put it down and as an active researcher in the field itself, it has provided me with some very, um, real food for thought.
Review by Peet MorrisPlease note, this title is 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.