Monthly Archives: August 2023

The book — Fantastic Numbers and Where to Find Them

The subtitle has — A cosmic quest from zero to infinity. It was written by physicist Antonio Padilla.

I was thinking this would be more math focused, but it is more about how a physicist explains very large and small numbers. That is fine with me, but it had a different bent from what I was expecting. With topics such as Tree(3), the Googolplex, Graham’s Number, zero, and Infinity, I thought it would be more mathematical than physics. I was particularly looking forward to the chapters on Graham’s Number and infinity.

The author is based in England, so it had British spellings, and it mentioned a lot of British and European sports. That is ok.

I did not expect Usain Bolt to show up in the book. The first chapter is about how Usain Bolt managed to run so fast in 2009, that he could slow his clock down by a factor of 1.000000000000000858 (I counted 15 zeros, but maybe I am off by one), and no human had ever slowed down their time that much. This is because of time dilation as objects approach the speed of light. As objects approach the speed of light, they also appear to have more mass, and they contract in size.

In the book, some of the things that I learned more about were:

  • Black hole head death. Which is “if you tried to picture Graham’s number in your head, then your head would collapse to form a black hole.”
  • Tree(3) — I am still not exactly sure why it is less than infinity, but I found some math articles to clarify that, but they were over my head. He did not explain that good enough for me. I guess it has to do with Kruskal’s tree theorem.
  • Where the name Fibonacci came from. That was not his real name.

In trying to explain how there are different levels of infinity, we learn about different sets. There are countable infinities, and then there are uncountable infinities. These concepts drove Georg Cantor mad.

Sometimes, the topics discussed seemed disconnected. For example, in the chapter on Infinity, he ends up talking about String Theory. I am not quite sure how he ended up there from the concept of infinity.

He changed the story of Schroedinger’s cat to be one of the Queen of England’s Corgi dogs. I found that to be a little odd.

It was an interesting read, but he does go off into tangents about the holographic universe, but that is his thing, so just be wary of the loose and strange connections he makes.

Here’s Looking at Euclid

Took me several months to finish this one, and I finally did a couple weeks ago. I particularly liked Chapter 4 the Life of Pie and Chapter 7, Secrets of Succession.

I’ve always like how pi has digits that go on forever, since it is an irrational number. The Secrets of Succession chapter covers sequences of numbers. It mentions the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, which I had never heard of before. For example, the Fibonacci sequence has many notes, while other sequences are not as full.

I am reading another book that connects numbers with physics, and I learned that Fibonacci was not his real name. “The man’s full name was Leonardo of Pisa, or Leonardo Pisano in Italian. He was born in about 1175 in Pisa, a Tuscan town famous for its Leaning Tower. The name Fibonacci [pronounced fib-on-ach-ee] is short for ‘filius Bonacci’ or ‘son of Bonacci.’”

Overall, if someone is mathematically inclined, it is a fun read.