Bridges to Infinity

Bridges to Infinity (The Human Side of Mathematics) Author: Michael Guillen, Ph.D. / Published by Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc., Los Angeles / Copyright 1983 / First Edition, Paperback 204 Pages

I have never been any good in Mathematics and that is why I have long been on the lookout for anything that can help me out.

I had this epiphany when my nephew James started school — I didn’t want my math-anxiety to rub off on him. I didn’t want to color his attitude towards Math and  limit his potential for possibly enjoying it. Say the word “Math” and people usually would give pained expressions and start bad-mouthing the subject. I didn’t want all that to negatively influence a little boy’s attitude and his growing brain. So whenever needed, I feigned being comfortable, being confident about it.

I really really want to understand Math, or at the very least not automatically tune out or blank out when confronted with it. Its the same sense of frustration and discontent I feel when face to face with great Music and amazing Nature — I know I could enjoy it so much more if only I had the ability to understand what was happening. I feel somehow left out of the real story.

I was giddy happy when I found this book.

On one of my hunting trips in a favorite bargain bookstore, I was lucky enough to be the one to unearth the gem from the pile. This book was a real gift for me, a wonderful surprise.  In a collection of 17 sparkling essays writing in clear plain English, Guillen got me in on the stories of Math. He made me believe that it is really possible for me to actually be comfortable with the subject. I finally got an inkling on what Mathematicians were doing and why, on what Math was for and what it means to us. It takes a special writer to do that.

In this instance, the book blurbs were uncommonly true (for how many times have book blurbs failed me). Publishers Weekly is quoted as saying “Even the most resistant mind cannot fail to be charmed and edified.” Indeed, though resistant to edification, my mind received much needed education and I was truly grateful that someone made that effort.

I was so glad to have found Guillen that I also looked for his other book “Five Equations that Changed the World“. Now these two titles have found their place in my “keep re-reading” shelf.  Like Lewis Thomas’s “Lives of a Cell“, these books are among my go-to remedy whenever I get sticky brain and writer’s block because clear writing sounds like clear bells in my head that wakes up the synapses and gets those connections jumping out of the rut.


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