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Indiscrete Thoughts

by Gian-Carlo Rota

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752320,553 (4.29)None
Indiscrete Thoughts gives a glimpse into a world that has seldom been described - that of science and technology as seen through the eyes of a mathematician. The era covered by this book, 1950 to 1990, was surely one of the golden ages of science and of the American university. Cherished myths are debunked along the way as Gian-Carlo Rota takes pleasure in portraying, warts and all, some of the great scientific personalities of the period. Rota is not afraid of controversy. Some readers may even consider these essays indiscreet. This beautifully written book is destined to become an instant classic and the subject of debate for decades to come.… (more)
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Rota was my favorite professor. This is a collection of fairly random writings of his. There are short biographies of mathematicians that Rota knew, some writings on Phenomenology that are well beyond my understanding, and musings on what Mathematics is and how its practitioners actually work.

The biographies seem to be somewhere between gossipy and irreverent and flat-out mean. Rota seems to be trying to show that a great mathematician needn't be a good person. Perhaps unintentionally, he seems to be underscoring the point by being unpleasant himself.

The Phenomenology is well outside my ken. I tried to make sense of it, but I'm failing on basic vocabulary. I wish I'd read the afterword first. It warns that almost nobody understands the distinctions Rota is making in these passages.

The musings on Mathematics were very interesting. Rota hits the nail on the head a number of times. ( )
  aneel | May 10, 2007 |
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Indiscrete Thoughts gives a glimpse into a world that has seldom been described - that of science and technology as seen through the eyes of a mathematician. The era covered by this book, 1950 to 1990, was surely one of the golden ages of science and of the American university. Cherished myths are debunked along the way as Gian-Carlo Rota takes pleasure in portraying, warts and all, some of the great scientific personalities of the period. Rota is not afraid of controversy. Some readers may even consider these essays indiscreet. This beautifully written book is destined to become an instant classic and the subject of debate for decades to come.

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