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A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines

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A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines Cover

ISBN13: 9781400040308
ISBN10: 1400040302
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Publisher Comments:


In this remarkable work of fiction, astrophysicist Janna Levin reimagines the lives of two of the most important and influential minds of our time.

The narrator is a scientist herself, a physicist obsessed with Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of many centuries, and with Alan Turing, the extraordinary mathematician, breaker of the Enigma Code during World War II. “They are both brilliantly original and outsiders,” the narrator tells us. “They are both besotted with mathematics. But for all their devotion, mathematics is indifferent, unaltered by any of their dramas . . . Against indifference, I want to tell their stories.” Which she does in a haunting, incantatory voice, the two lives unfolding in parallel narratives that overlap in the magnitude of each man’s achievement and demise: Gödel, delusional and paranoid, would starve himself to death; Turing, arrested for homosexual activities, would be driven to suicide. And they meet as well in the narrator’s mind, where facts are interwoven with her desire and determination to find meaning in the maze of their stories: two men devoted to truth of the highest abstract nature, yet unable to grasp the mundane truths of their own lives.

A unique amalgam of luminous imagination and richly evoked historic character and event: A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a story about the pursuit of truth and its effect on the lives of two men. A story of genius and madness, incredible yet true.

About the Author

Janna Levin is a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

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Janet Hamilton, December 27, 2006 (view all comments by Janet Hamilton)
This book is not for everyone. This book is not for those unwilling to ask hard questions or work through mathematical explanations way beyond their own limited capacities. This book is for those willing to wonder what they might learn about themselves from a fictionalized study of the lives of some of the world?s most brilliant minds. Kurt Godel, responsible for the incompleteness theory, and Alan Turing, a brilliant World War II decoder, and computer pioneer are the main math wizards. Men of genius, they make major contributions to the world, but find it next to impossible to function as human beings in that world. Godel and Turing never meet in person, though their ideas reverberate in each other?s heads. In fact, this book is largely about how ideas stir up human lives and communicate in ways in which humans are unable to. The philosopher Wittgenstein as well as other historic thinkers from the Vienna Circle play their parts as readers are asked to consider existential questions that plague us all. The main subject here is how within the fragile framework of our human frailty we cultivate or torture our monumental minds.

The author, Janna Levin, herself a physicist, finds it necessary to insert herself into the story. She does this, perhaps, because she does not have confidence in her own powers to let the story convey its own meaning, which it does quite well. Yes, we are all limited. Yes, we are all boundless. Yes, we all want to be acknowledged and seen. And yes, it is probably going to be our fate to be disappointed in ourselves. Some will look at this book and find much to criticize, while some will find much to praise. Perhaps both praise and criticism will come from the same lips. That?s the point. As Levin says: ?That was us?funny and lousy and great all at once.? Read it. You're bound to find something out about some great minds, as well as about yourself.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400040308
Author:
Levin, Janna
Publisher:
Knopf
Subject:
Great britain
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Historical - British
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Mathematicians
Subject:
Scientists - General
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
August 2006
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 in .95 lb

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