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Imaginary Numbers An Anthology of Marvelous Mathematical Stories, Diversions

ISBN 0471332445 / 9780471332442 / 0-471-33244-5

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Book summary

Don't be fooled by the title of Imaginary Numbers. Editor William Frucht hasn't devoted a book to explicating the many mysteries of the square root of minus one. What he has done is far more impressive. Pursuing what he envisions as "a truly literary science fiction," Frucht has dared to collect an idiosyncratic company of writers--including such disparate names as Rudy Rucker, Italo Calvino, William Gibson, and Lewis Carroll--into one eclectic, accomplished anthology. The unifying theme of these writings, the short stories, essays, out-loud ponderings, even poetry, is the world of mathematics: every contributor is either "using mathematics to tell stories or using stories to explain mathematics," what Frucht describes as two sides of the same coin.

What Einstein's Dreams did for time, Imaginary Numbers does for mathematics, posing a meditation that manages to be thought provoking, intellectually rigorous, and simply delightful all at the same time. (In fact, an excerpt from Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams appears in the collection.) Some of the titles might be familiar--like Gibson's "Burning Chrome" or Jorge Luis Borges's "Library of Babel"--but the breadth of Frucht's selections ensures that you'll find more than a few undiscovered gems within. --Paul Hughes [via]