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THE MUSEUM OF NUMBERS. From zero to infinity, stories from the world of mathematics

  • Mathematics
  • Categories:Mathematics
  • Language:Italian(Translation Services Available)
  • Publication date:November,2014
  • Retail Price:(Unknown)
  • Words:(Unknown)
  • Pages:432
  • Size:(Unknown)
  • Text Color:Full color
  • Page Views:8
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“Remove numbers from things, and those things will be lost.”
                        – St. Augustine of Hippo


★Right sold in simplified Chinese!
★This book has had 7 editions with more than 40,000 copies sold, which is a great result in Italy. The more so if we consider that it covers a very specific subject, even though it handles maths in an original passionate way.
★Piergiorgio Odifreddi is a best-selling author of more than 150,000 copies sold, he won the important Italian popular science award Galieo Prize!
★English catalogue available.


“What is a number, that a man may know it, and a man, that he may know a number?”
Neurophysiologist Warren McCulloch asked himself these questions in 1960, evidently dissatisfied with many of the rigid and empty definitions offered by philosophers up to that time.
In this book Piergiorgio Odifreddi tackles the two questions with a more fluid and practical approach: instead of trying futilely to tell us what numbers are with abstract concepts, he usefully shows us a series of numbers concretely. He has chosen about fifty among those that are most appropriate to be discussed, and he shows them to us as would a guide in a museum, explaining and illustrating the overall structure and particular details of each one.
Walking through this gallery of paintings, readers will find the small and great numbers from 0 to 9, and realize that they do not know them as well as they had assumed. They will discover the charm of numbers previously believed to be without interest, such as 42 or 1,729. They will try to imagine numbers so large as to be almost elusive and inconceivable. And they will finally grasp why mathematicians believe that numbers are the closest thing to divinity that man can perceive: because that’s what they are.


Piergiorgio Odifreddi (1950) studied mathematics in Italy, the United States and the Soviet Union, and has taught logic at the University of Turin and at Cornell University. He writes for La Repubblica and Le Scienze and in 2011 he won the Galileo Prize for science popularization. His previous books has been sold in Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Catalan and Turkish.


Prologue. The math contest 9

The dawns of the number
Finger-counting 17
A bounty-notch on numbers (The man of Cro-Magnon) 21
The unknotting of the knot (The early Chinese and the Incas) 24
Calculations begin (The Elamites and the Sumerians) 26
The missionary position (The Babylonians) 31
Horus’ eye (The Egyptians) 35
Coded alphabets (The Greeks and the Jews) 39
The abacus jugglers (The Chinese) 44
Zero, finally (The Indians and the Maya) 48
The “Arabic” figures (The Indians and the Arabs) 53

Our nada who art in nada (0) 63
The Unit, organ of the Monist Party (1) 78
Another pair of manichaeisms (2) 90
Things come in threes (3) 105
In the sign of the cross (4) 125
Give me five (5) 143
You see it as six (6) 155
Seven times seven (7) 162
The Eightfold Path (8) 168
The cat’s tails (9) 178

Numbers in verse 189
The payment of the tithe (Base 10) 192
Thus spoke the computer (Base 2) 195
The solitude of number One (Base 1) 200
Neatening the creation 202
A squared turtle (Lo Shu) 204
Forth and back (12345678987654321) 207 Repeating but passed (111,111,111) 209
Strength through unity (1,023,456,789) 212
Madrigal of numbers 214

Tens and hundreds
Ten with honors to the Indians (10) 221
The right verse (11) 227
The dirty dozen (12) 232
In the name of Bach (14) 241
The highest-class number (41) 245
The final answer (42) 247
Divination and eroticism (64) 254
One hundred, instructions for use (100) 259
The miraculous catch (153) 265
A devilish number (666) 269

Thousands, millions and billions
One thousand and not again one thousand (1,000) 275
Two geniuses in action (1,729) 281
Father Mersenne is wrong (2,047) 285
A platonic law (5,040) 288
A sickening game (17,152) 292
Egyptian nursery rhyme (19,607) 294
What to say of this number? (103,049) 297
Rhyming answers (840,420) 300
A third genius in action (635,318,657) 302
Lawyer Fermat is wrong (4,294,967,297) 304

10 to the power
From galaxies to neurons (1011) 313
A hundred thousand billion poems (1014) 318
The chessboard’s reduplicating (1019) 322
Molecules and masses (1023) 329
Typing monkeys (1036) 338
The Simpsons’ mathematics (1044) 342
Having the monster hit the headlines (1054) 345
Significant coincidences (1061) 347
A sand storm (1063) 349
The atoms of the universe (1080) 351
10 to the superpower
From Google to Googol and back (10100) 359
Buddha’s record (10421) 364
Incarnation by incarnation (106,083) 368
The Sun’s herds (10206,545) 371
Babel’s library (10106) 375
A myriad of “myriads” (101017) 379
A perpetual chess tournament (101054) 382
The Eternal Return (101082) 384
Big leaps ahead (n^ ^n) 386
The Tower of Babel (n^n) 392

Thousands of acknowledgements 401
Ordinal bibliography 403
Cardinal bibliography 411
Index of names 413
Image set 421

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