Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ahhh, The Calculus

Sunday reflection....

"The calculus is humanity's great meditation on the theme of continuity, its first and most audacious attempt to represent the world, or to create it, by means of symbolic forms that in their power go beyond the usual hopelessly limited descriptions that we habitually employ. There is more to the calculus than the fundamental theorem and more to mathematics than the calculus. And yet the calculus has a singular power to command the attention of educated men and women. It carries with it the innocence of an abstract pursuit successfully accomplished. It is a great and powerful theory arising at the very moment human beings contemplated the infinite for the first time: sequences without end, infinite additions, limits flickering in the far distance. There is nothing in our experience that suggests that mathematics such as this should work, so that the successes of the calculus in unifying aspects of experience are tantalizing but incomplete evidence that of the doors of perception, some at least may open and some at least may lead to someplace beyond."

-- David Berlinski (from "A Tour of The Calculus")

[p.s., over at MathTango this morning I recommend two recent books.]

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