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Number the Language of Science by Joseph Mazur and Barry Mazur


Book Details


The book you hold in your hands is a many-stranded meditation
on Number, and is an ode to the beauties of mathematics.

This classic is about the evolution of the Number concept. Yes:
Number has had, and will continue to have, an evolution. How did
Number begin? We can only speculate.

Did Number make its initial entry into language as an adjective?
Three cows, three days, three miles. Imagine the exhilaration
you would feel if you were the first human to be struck with the
startling thought that a unifying thread binds “three cows” to “three
days,” and that it may be worthwhile to deal with their common
three-ness. This, if it ever occurred to a single person at a single
time, would have been a monumental leap forward, for the disembodiedconcept of three-ness, the noun three, embraces far more than cows or days. It would also have set the stage for the comparison to be made between, say, one day and three days, thinking of the latter duration as triple the former, ushering in yet another view of three, in its role in the activity of tripling; three embodied, if you wish, in the verb to triple.

Or perhaps Number emerged from some other route: a form
of incantation, for example, as in the children’s rhyme “One, two,
buckle my shoe….”

However it began, this story is still going on, and Number,
humble Number, is showing itself ever more central to our understanding of what is. The early Pythagoreans must be dancing in
their caves.


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