- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
This item may be
Check for Availability
This title in other editions
Einstein's Heroes: Imagining the World Through the Language of Mathematics
Synopses & Reviews
Imagine you are fluent in a magical language of prophecy, a language so powerful it can accurately describe things you cannot see or even imagine. Einstein's Heroes takes you on a journey of discovery about just such a miraculous language; the language of mathematics, one of humanity's most amazing accomplishments. Blending science, history, and biography, this remarkable book reveals the mysteries of mathematics, focusing on the life and work of three of Albert Einstein's heroes: Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and especially James Clerk Maxwell, whose portrait hung on Einstein's laboratory wall and whose work directly inspired the theory of relativity. In this engaging book, Robyn Arianrhod bridges the gap between science and literature, portraying mathematics as a language and arguing that a physical theory is a work of imagination involving the elegant and clever use of this language. Her narrative centers on the work of Maxwell, the first scientist to embrace the ambiguous relationship between language and reality, the first to accept that, in a very real sense, language is reality. The heart of the book illuminates how Maxwell, using the language of mathematics in a new and radical way, resolved the seemingly insoluble controversy between Faraday's idea of lines of force and Newton's theory of action-at-a-distance. In so doing, Maxwell not only produced the first complete mathematical description of electromagnetism, but actually predicted the existence of the radio wave, something utterly unexpected, teasing it out of the mathematical language itself. Here then is a fascinating look at mathematics: its colorful characters, its historical intrigues, and above all its role as the uncannily accurate language of nature.
"Admirably sketching the battle lines currently staked out over the idea of objective truth, a Cambridge professor of philosophy makes his subject lively and accessible even as he parts some of its deepest waters, with absolutists-traditionalists-realists on the one side and relativists-postmodernists-idealists on the other. The absolutists believe in 'plain, unvarnished objective fact'; the relativists say with Nietzsche, 'There are no facts, only interpretations.' Blackburn scrutinizes the claims of both sides with a collegial but critical eye, carefully distinguishing positions and identifying places where the two sides are speaking past each other, covering, among others, Protagoras, Plato, Hume, James, Nagel, Wittgenstein, Locke, Rorty and Davidson. He constructs a simple diagram that makes sense of four contrasting attitudes toward truth: eliminativism, realism, constructivism and quietism. Out of this inquiry emerges a middle position: truth is real if accepted in a minimalist way; relativism is not necessarily incoherent; and we can respond to science with 'well-mannered animation' that is indistinguishable from belief. As Blackburn recognizes, this solution will not please everyone: absolutists may find it treasonous, relativists too conservative. But the overall result is to salvage a plausible version of truth. Blackburn considers truth 'the most exciting and engaging issue in the whole of philosophy,' and, with wit and erudition, he succeeds in proving that point." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Blending science, history, and biography, this book reveals the mysteries of mathematics, focusing on the life and work of three of Albert Einstein's heroes: Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell.
About the Author
Robyn Arianrhod is a writer and mathematician whose passion for both literature and mathematics reflects her love of language. She teaches mathematics at Monashonorary University, where she is also an Honorary Research outside Associate.
What Our Readers Are Saying