“An engaging, pellucid explanation of the mathematical understanding of infinity, enlivened by a historical gloss on age-old affinities…” – Washington Post Book World
Toward the end of the 19th century, one of the most brilliant mathematicians in history languished in an asylum. His greatest accomplishment, the result of a series of extraordinary leaps of insight, was his pioneering understanding of the nature of infinity.
From the acclaimed author of God’s Equation comes The Mystery of the Aleph, the story of Georg Cantor: how he came to his theories and the reverberations of his pioneering work, the consequences of which will shape our world for the foreseeable future. The mindtwisting, deeply philosophical work of Cantor has its roots in ancient Greek mathematics and Jewish numerology as found in the mystical work known as the Kabbalah. Cantor’s theory of the infinite is famous for its many seeming contradictions; for example, we can prove that in all time there are as many years as days, that there are as many points on a one-inch line as on a one-mile line.
While the inspiration for Cantor’s mind-twisting genius lies in the very origins of mathematics, its meaning is still being interpreted. Only in 1947 did Kurt Godel prove that Cantor’s Continuum Hypothesis is independent of the rest of mathematics – and that the foundations of mathematics itself are therefore shaky.
By Amir D. Aczel