While I’m very busy at work and in my daily life, I’ve managed to start reading a new mathematical novel. It’s called A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel and is published by the Princeton University Press. I’ve read only a few chapters but I must say that I’m really intrigued by this unusual and very interesting book. Besides being an easy read and an enjoyable page turner, this work of fiction manages to spark both interest in the illustration of thought-provoking mathematical concepts and at the same time, a genuine curiosity and interest towards the protagonist’s character.
It’s the kind of book that a mathematically inclined person would absolutely love, and in fact I’m having a hard time putting it down myself. On the other hand, anyone interested in an all around intelligent book, will be fascinated by its compelling narrative and the rather accessible mathematical insights, no matter what background they’re coming from.
A Certain Ambiguity is definitely a mathematical novel, but it’s not limited to that, because it’s a good philosophical novel to start with, so it can be appreciated when approached from different angles and mathematical skill levels. I plan to provide an in depth review as soon as I finish the book. Meanwhile it gets my positive recommendation; pick up a copy of this book to keep you company as “sweater weather” and a return to more time spent pursuing actives indoors arrives. The official page describes the book in the following terms:
“While taking a class on infinity at Stanford in the late 1980s, Ravi Kapoor discovers that he is confronting the same mathematical and philosophical dilemmas that his mathematician grandfather had faced many decades earlier–and that had landed him in jail. Charged under an obscure blasphemy law in a small New Jersey town in 1919, Vijay Sahni is challenged by a skeptical judge to defend his belief that the certainty of mathematics can be extended to all human knowledge–including religion. Together, the two men discover the power–and the fallibility–of what has long been considered the pinnacle of human certainty, Euclidean geometry.
As grandfather and grandson struggle with the question of whether there can ever be absolute certainty in mathematics or life, they are forced to reconsider their fundamental beliefs and choices. Their stories hinge on their explorations of parallel developments in the study of geometry and infinity–and the mathematics throughout is as rigorous and fascinating as the narrative and characters are compelling and complex. Moving and enlightening, A Certain Ambiguity is a story about what it means to face the extent–and the limits–of human knowledge.”
You can also download the first chapter here to whet your appetite.