Sunday, October 16, 2011

Too short — (but still timely) — A review of „The Mystery of the Aleph”

Amir Achel's book „The Mystery of the Aleph: Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the Search for Infinity” is essentially the book about the famous XVIII century German mathematician George Cantor — famous for his invention of set theory and its first formulation. The book focuses on his life-time long efforts to describe, define and understand the nature of infinity. The efforts, mostly related to his theory of  transfinite numbers and the search for Absolute Infinity that transcends the transfinite numbers. The mathematical details, indispensable in such a kind of book, are presented in a simple way, so that any high school student can understand it. However, the main theme of the book is the detrimental impact the search on Cantor's mental health.

What was a bit disappointing in the book is the Kabbalah thread. First and foremost, we can't find too much of good explanation of the link between Cantor's search and search for Ein Sof — absolutely Infinite Being. Perhaps the intro to Kabbalah was too short, or, as I tend to think, one can't really understand Kaballah in a simplified way, so that we can see the relation between it and science. This seems to be impossible, and the disappointment I feel is perhaps the signal of something deeper....

Any way — it is interesting and fascinating book to all those who are interested in history of mathematics.

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