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The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges'…
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The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel

by William Goldbloom Bloch

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The author does a very good job of explaining some of the mathematics that are implied from Borges' short story, and thus uses this as a generative point. The section on the manifold may be a bit confusing for many (although the author does give his frequent "advisories"). Perhaps a little too much time is spent in the beginning making qualifying comments / apologies when they may not be necessary. In my view, there were a few other avenues the author could have explored, but that is hardly considered a failing. ( )
  KXF | Nov 16, 2011 |
Not earth-shattering in its excitement, and I'm not totally sure how accessible it is to non-mathmos (or at least allied professions). Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed reading this trawl through the mathematical ideas thrown up by Borges' short story. Even if I'm not, as a humble physicist, quite convinced by some of his conclusions.
  frithuswith | Mar 11, 2010 |
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We do not content ourselves with the life we have in ourselves and in our own being;  we desire to live an imaginary life in the mind of others, and for this purpose we endeavor to shine.  We labor unceasingly to adorn and preserve this imaginary existence and neglect the real.
- Blaise Pascal, Penses, no. 147
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195334574, Hardcover)

"The Library of Babel" is arguably Jorge Luis Borges' best known story--memorialized along with Borges on an Argentine postage stamp. Now, in The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel, William Goldbloom Bloch takes readers on a fascinating tour of the mathematical ideas hidden within one of the classic works of modern literature.

Written in the vein of Douglas R. Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gödel, Escher, Bach, this original and imaginative book sheds light on one of Borges' most complex, richly layered works. Bloch begins each chapter with a mathematical idea--combinatorics, topology, geometry, information theory--followed by examples and illustrations that put flesh on the theoretical bones. In this way, he provides many fascinating insights into Borges' Library. He explains, for instance, a straightforward way to calculate how many books are in the Library--an easily notated but literally unimaginable number--and also shows that, if each book were the size of a grain of sand, the entire universe could only hold a fraction of the books in the Library. Indeed, if each book were the size of a proton, our universe would still not be big enough to hold anywhere near all the books.

Given Borges' well-known affection for mathematics, this exploration of the story through the eyes of a humanistic mathematician makes a unique and important contribution to the body of Borgesian criticism. Bloch not only illuminates one of the great short stories of modern literature but also exposes the reader--including those more inclined to the literary world--to many intriguing and entrancing mathematical ideas.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:30 -0400)

&Quot;The Library of Babel" is arguably Jorge Luis Borges' best known story--memorialized along with Borges on an Argentine postage stamp. Now, in The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel, William Goldbloom Bloch takes readers on a fascinating tour of the mathematical ideas hidden within one of the classic works of modern literature. Written in the vein of Douglas R. Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning Godel, Escher, Bach, this original and imaginative book sheds light on one of Borges' most complex, richly layered works. Bloch begins each chapter with a mathematical idea-… (more)

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