Yearning for the Impossible: The Surprising Truths of Mathematics

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Peters, 2006 - Science - 230 pages
5 Reviews
This book explores the history of mathematics from the perspective of the creative tension between common sense and the "impossible" as the author follows the discovery or invention of new concepts that have marked mathematical progress: irrational and imaginary numbers, the fourth dimension, curved space, infinity, and others. The authors puts these creations in to a broader context involving related "impossibilities" from art, literature, philosophy, and physics. By embedding mathematics into a broader cultural context and through his clever and enthusiastic explication of mathematical ideas the author broadens the horizon of students beyond the narrow confines of rote memorization and engages those who are curious about the place of mathematics in our intellectual landscape.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fpagan - LibraryThing

Number-related "impossibilities" that proved to be perfectly reasonable and valuable: irrationals, imaginaries, infinitesimals, curved spaces, quaternions, transfinites, and more. A unique, authoritative, and enjoyable exposition. Read full review

Review: Yearning for the Impossible: The Surprising Truths of Mathematics

User Review  - Chelsea Ten - Goodreads

It was a very interesting read, and it was around the right level for me. One minor complaint is that the placement of diagrams weren't always ideal, and I ended up having to flip back and forth between pages to refer to them often. But otherwise, it was both entertaining and educational. Read full review

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About the author (2006)

John Stillwell, originally from Melbourne, Australia, is a Mathematics Professor at the University of San Francisco. He earned his M.Sc. in 1965 from the University of Melbourne and his Ph.D from MIT in 1970. His writing covers a wide spectrum of mathematics. He has translated classic texts by Dirichlet, Dedeking, Poincare, and Dehn, and has written several originals, including Mathematics and its History; The Four Pillars of Geometry; and Elements of Number Theory. In 2005 he was awarded the Chauvenet Prize by the Mathematical Association of America for his expository writing.

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