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Jonathan Andrew Wolter

Book Review: The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel

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Reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

This book is *awesome*! Why? The author takes a short story, “The Library of Babel,” by Jorge Luis Borges and analyzes it along many different mathematical dimensions. The results are stimulating and accessible to non-mathematicians. The story is about a library, which is composed of:

An indefinite number of … hexagonal galleries. In the center of each gallery is a ventilation shaft, bounded by a low railing. … Twenty bookshelves … line four of the hexagon’s six sides… One of the hexagon’s free sides opens onto a narrow sort of vestibule, which in turn opens to another gallery, identical to the first — identical in fact to all.

What’s the implication of this? The author, William Goldbloom Bloch, takes us through combinatorics, information theory, real analysis, topology and cosmology (a tough chapter), geometry and graph theory, and more combinatorics. He explains things in an easy to understand way, and then if you want more, has “Math Aftermath” sections that get more in depth.

In the end, he gives a long list of suggested readings. I have started a list here http://amzn.com/w/236UZ2PNNR3W2. What math books do you all suggest?

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Written by Jonathan

April 30th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

2 Responses to 'Book Review: The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel'

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  1. This is a film that is in part about how we fail to communicate and how we fail to understand not only with people in other cultures but also with people just around the block. This is the story of one family and how miscommunication and a lack of understanding spirals out into tragedy. Told in a disjointed manner that alters the time frame we have four stories: A family in Morocco who get a gun to protect the sheep they herd, A couple on vacation in the same country which has its vacation shattered by a shooting, the children of the couple who take a trip with their housekeeper to Mexico, and a seemingly unconnected story of a Japanese father and daughter. Thats what happens in simplistic terms. What happens on the screen is an often rending tale of how life connects us all in weird ways that we can’t always explain. Its a beautiful movie to look at and is magnificently acted.

    Unfortunately this viewer was bored silly by it. Pretentious to the point of silliness this is a movie that is going to spell out its premise over and over again. Yes, we can’t communicate (and if it isn’t clear one of the characters is deaf), yes we are all connected, yes this will lead to tragedy. Thank you for pointing it out for us, but did you have to do it for almost two and a half hours? Don’t get me wrong there is a good story in this movie, but the way the director has chosen to tell it, out of order with the grafting on of the Japanese portion of the film, it all becomes lost. Its an attempt to add some emotional and intellectual weight to a story that doesn’t need it. I walked out of the the film admiring it and what it was trying to do, but not liking it much at all.


    8 Sep 14 at 2:41 pm

  2. cosmetic dentistry…

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