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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

For Now Just a Note


All my life my tastes/interests have been rather mis-aligned from the American masses. So it wasn't altogether surprising that this morning I found myself in line at Barnes & Noble with about a half-dozen folks in front of me clutching their new, just-released Harper Lee sequel, and a half-dozen folks in back of me doing the same... and me in the middle clutching Siobhan Roberts' newly-released "Genius At Play" (which a manager had to dig out of the backroom for me, because they had forgotten to put it out on display!).
By the time I reached the cashier he gave me this look as if to say, 'What's THIS? are you sure this is what you meant to pick up?' To which I was responding silently in my head with, 'WHAT is WR-R-RONG with YOU people! you're reading a pack of lies and made-up fiction when you could be reading about the true life of a fascinating, actual human being; grrrrummmpffff.' ...But I stayed silent.

Anyway, I'm only a few dozen pages into this volume and feel safe in saying every mathematician out there (perhaps even most scientists) will want to read this wonderful account. Likely, most biography-lovers (which entails a lot of people) will also enjoy it immensely. Outside of those two categories, I'm not sure who will be drawn to this book, but I hope that somehow it falls into the hands of a great many, including math-phobes.

In some ways, Richard Feynman was the crown prince of modern physics, who much of the public only learned about in books, writings, and video clips after his death. Similarly, John Conway is a sort of crown prince of modern-day mathematics, who the larger public is unfortunately little aware of. I hope this book brings him into greater public consciousness while he is still among us. He deserves it.

I'll probably eventually have a full review of the volume over at MathTango, though I can't do any better than the splendid one Colm Mulcahy put up today:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colm-mulcahy/john-h-conway-genius-at-p_b_7749796.html

For now, this is my idea of Christmas in July!


[My full review is now up HERE.]

 

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