Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Fantastic Numbers and Where to Find Them: A Cosmic Quest from Zero to Infinity


Fantastic Numbers and Where to Find Them is a genuinely fascinating look at numbers, physics, and the nature of reality gathered and facilitated by Dr. Antonio Padilla. Released 26th July by Macmillan on their Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint, it's 352 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.  It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

This book is absolutely bursting with personality. Dr. Padilla *loves* numbers, and math, and really wants to share the love with everyone. Many (most) mathematics and physics books, even those accessible to the average layperson, presuppose at least some affinity with the subject matter. I think of it as "preaching to the choir". Not so this book. The author explains things in such a way as to make them accessible and understandable to almost anyone. There are no long and arduous proofs to work through (though he does give copious notes and there's enough meat and rigor to satisfy actual maths/physics folks). He explains quite complex theory in a fun way. 

Books like this one are a tragedy for me personally in some ways because a long time ago, there was an academic split and I took the road more traveled - toward a life of professional bionerdery and away from the more crystalline forests of physics and mathematics. When I read books like this one (and when I revisit Feynman's Lectures, as I do once every few years) it fills me with a nostalgic wistfulness about not following physics more earnestly. 

Maths and physics certainly *can* and *should* be engaging and fun. This is a good book. I would recommend it for maths/physics interested adults or older teenagers or *very* engaged younger readers. If 12 year old me had had a copy, I might not be a bioengineer today. 

Language and spelling are British English but it won't cause any problems in context.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.  

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