Thursday, December 24, 2009
Book Review: Logicomix
Not sure where to file this one. It's a biography of Bertrand Russell, focusing on his work in logic and mathematics, ending up in World War II, written by Greeks with a bit of ancient Greek tragedy thrown in for good measure. Although Russell is the main figure it's really about the other characters as well: Cantor, Wittgenstein, and Godel. Godel's Incompleteness theorem is presented right (far as I know, since it goes along with what I read in Godel, Escher, Bach long ago!), but there's just so much logical depth one can achieve with a comic book! It really is about the characters, and I enjoyed going with the flow. Although I wonder how much of the story is colored by what the authors want to say rather than what is really there. For instance, did the computer really win WWII for us? I think it was a factor but a lot more factors were more important. Radar, for instance (was the computer necessary for radar, in the sense that without Turing there would be no radar?). The book puts forward democracy as a solution against evil and skates on by the fact that Germany in the early 20th century was pretty democratic! As a thought-provoking way to learn some math history and to start a line of thinking this is an excellent book. What it doesn't do is resolve the issues it brings up -- but I wouldn't expect that anyway!