Review: The Adventure of Numbers

One of the books I took on holiday this year was Gilles Godefroy’s The Adventure of Numbers. This is a great book!

The book takes the reader on a tour of numbers: ancient number systems, Sumerian and Babylonian number systems (decimal coded base 60, from which we probably get our time system of hours, minutes and seconds), ancient Greeks and the discovery of irrational numbers, Arabs, the development of imaginary numbers, transcendentals, Dedekind’s construction of the reals, p-adic numbers, infinite ordinals, and the limits of proof.

This is a huge range, well written, and while fairly rigorous only requires basic mathematics.

I love the fact that I got from this book both things that I can talk to primary school children about (indivisibility of space through a geometric construction of the square root of two and its irrationality) and also – unexpectedly – an introduction to the deep and beautiful MRDP theorem which links two sublime interests for me: computation (in a remarkably general sense) and Diophantine equations.

What’s not to love?

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