Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Questioning the Universe

My latest dip into my overflowing bookshelves came up with a spot of non-fiction: Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries: Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Psuedoscience Topics by Martin Gardner (2003). It really is about all those things. And probably fifty more.

I first heard of Martin Gardner when I worked for the math archives. He comes from a philosophy background, but is well known for his writing on recreational mathematics. He has written about a billion books, some of which (like this one) contain reprints of his columns. Gardner is a great popular journalist, with broad interests and a whole swath of venues in which to air his (sometimes contentious) opinions on everything from quantum physics, to religion, to literature. He is entertainingly contrary on certain topics, and particularly fun to read when he attacks such pseudoscientific disciples as primal scream therapy, distant healing, and therapeutic touch.

The science articles in this book are fascinating, particularly "Multiverses and Blackberries" and "Can Time go Backward?" The mathematics articles are also interesting, although a lot of the details were a little bit beyond my personal interest in mathematics (I like the ideas, but not the numbers). The religion section is great. The Literature section introduced me to Gardner's work in the land of Oz (Kristy gift hint: get me this book). And the Moonshine section was the best of all.

It is hard to encapsulate what a book that covers some of the major aspects of human knowledge is about. And that is why this book is fun to read.

No comments: