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Are Numbers Real?

The Uncanny Relationship of Mathematics and the Physical World

Brian Clegg

St. Martin's Press

Are Numbers Real? Download image

ISBN10: 1250081041
ISBN13: 9781250081049


304 Pages



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Have you ever wondered what humans did before numbers existed? How they organized their lives, traded goods, or kept track of their treasures? What would your life be like without them?

Numbers began as simple representations of everyday things, but mathematics rapidly took on a life of its own, occupying a parallel virtual world. In Are Numbers Real?, Brian Clegg explores the way that math has become more and more detached from reality, and yet despite this is driving the development of modern physics. From devising a new counting system based on goats, through the weird and wonderful mathematics of imaginary numbers and infinity, to the debate over whether mathematics has too much influence on the direction of science, this fascinating and accessible book opens the reader’s eyes to the hidden reality of the strange yet familiar entities that are numbers.


Praise for Are Numbers Real?

"In Are Numbers Real Clegg tackles a very deep question in his usual way; with clarity, wit and a wonderfully clear narrative writing style. For me, numbers are like natural language: they obviously don’t exist in a physical sense—you cannot trip over the number '2' in the street—yet numbers are at the heart of understanding the universe. Clegg covers a wide variety of subjects to seek out the truth of the matter in an engaging and hugely accessible way. I personally couldn’t put it down, and as an active researcher in the field itself, it has provided me with some very real (?) food for thought."—Dr. Peet Morris, University of Oxford

"Brian Clegg’s Are Numbers Real? Is a compact, very readable, and highly entertaining history of the development and use of mathematics to answer the important practical questions involved in advancing civilization . . . Even for the reader not versed in the vector calculus used in the statement of Maxwell’s Laws, simply seeing the four Laws mathematically stated will induce (certainly the mot juste here) the feeling that this is the way the Universe is meant to be understood. And that sense of wonder permeates the entire book . . . a superb introduction to mathematics, science, and that branch of philosophy devoted to exploring the nature of reality."—Dr. James Stein, California State University, Long Beach

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


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Our journey in this book will explore a question that is fundamentally important to scientists—and for that matter the rest of us. Yet it’s a question...

About the author

Brian Clegg

BRIAN CLEGG is the author of Ten Billion Tomorrows, Final Frontier, Extra Sensory, Gravity, How to Build a Time Machine, Armageddon Science, Before the Big Bang, Upgrade Me, and The God Effect among others. He holds a physics degree from Cambridge and has written regular columns, features, and reviews for numerous magazines. He lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and two children.

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Brian Clegg

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