It is so rare to find a math history book on audio. I found the first half far more enlightening than the last, and enjoyed his jokes and personal narratives woven in as examples. His treatment of hyperbolic geometry was particularly noteworthy.
I paid for my whole seat but found out quickly that I would only use the edge or approximately one third of the area.
Maybe better as a normal book. As an audio book, it sometimes is annoying when the presenter rambles off long formulae or numbers (which is thankfully not too often).
The topic appears to skip around a bit and the change in historical interpretation of geometry from high-school math to mind-bending modern physics is offered mostly as a biography of those working on these topics over the past 2,500 years.
Overall: good but not great
Haven't read the print version.
Seeing Einstein's vision of curved space and non-Euclidean geometry based on the evolution of math from the triangle.
Some great background and stories about how math developed from the Geometry of the Ancient Greeks, through non-Euclidean Geometry of Gauss, Riemann, etc., which set the stage for the math of Relativity and Quantum theories. Fascinating listen on audiobook. Not many charts or graphs, so you wouldn't miss much by listening in the car.
And you can download the pdf of accompanying illustrations anyway.
Witty Historical Survey
Biography of Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson would be a good companion to Euclid's Window. The historical perspective of Einstein's life and especially the detail about his difficulties with developing the Theory of Relativity through the politics and antisemitism help provide the skeleton of history provided in Euclid's Window with the fullness of flesh.
Blumenfeld's intelligible diction was reminiscent of a professors monologue with the inflection of entertainment and the confidence indicating a familiarity with the work. He was a perfect choice for this entertaining historical writing.
I particularly enjoyed the author's use of his two sons in demonstrating complex ideas. One particular scene is of Alexi as Einstein and Nicholas as Heisenberg in a heated discussion over whether small regions of space are flat if it is devoid of mass. Alexi says it should be but Nicholas taunts him with his principle of uncertainty causing fluctuations of gravity that belie flatness of space.
I am going to listen to the book a second time. I like the chronological approach to the development of the geometry. Truly it presents math as a natural philosophy based on the world and a desire to understand it. In the next reading of the text I am going to stop periodically to learn more in depth the concepts and supplement the reading with other writings.
Having just finished the audio version of Leonard Mlodinow’s book, Euclid’s Window, I wish I could recommend it without caveat, but I can’t. Mlodinow is obviously a gifted mathematician. His academic credentials include studies at the Max Planck Institute and the California Institute of Technology, where he served on the faculty for a number of years. Having spent some time as a graduate student at Caltech, I know what that means: the guy’s brilliant! Unfortunately mathematical brilliance doesn’t necessarily translate into being an engaging writer.
Euclid’s Window takes the reader on a journey through five revolutions in the history of geometry, which is to say five revolutions in humanity’s way of looking at the world. In the book’s introduction Mlodinow outlines this thesis in broad strokes and also describes the societal evolution that accompanied these intellectual changes. If the remainder of the book had merely continued this program, filling in Mlodinow’s arguments in more detail and sophistication, I’d have been well pleased; but, in spite of his considerable mathematical expertise, Professor Mlodinow makes some surprisingly ineffective choices.
For instance, he seems to prefer cumbersome rather than straightforward examples. In discussing Riemann’s theory of elliptical spaces, rather than refer to a simple imaginary sphere with convenient integral dimensions, he drags the reader through a labored geographical representation using the Earth’s surface. The result is a tedious litany of place names and mileages, which might have been instructive as a printed table, but makes for excruciating listening. Similar lumbering demonstrations occur throughout the book.
Lack of illustrations is another deficiency. I don’t know whether the print version of Euclid’s Window employs diagrams – it’s hard to imagine a book about geometry that doesn't! - but they’d have been impossible to convey in the audio format anyway. For listeners trying to assimilate unfamiliar concepts, this could be a significant handicap.
While the mathematical explanations in Euclid’s Window are cogent enough, I found the discussions of physics to be less so. Mlodinow introduces the uncertainty principle without describing the matrix mechanics that Heisenberg used to derive it and General Relativity without mentioning its basic language of tensor calculus. String theory is given even shorter shrift. If you’re considering buying the book, be advised: you won’t learn much math or science. It's all window dressing.
On the other hand the history in Euclid’s Window is fascinating. I had no idea, for example, that Riemann’s gifted predecessor, Carl Friedrich Gauss, led such a dreadful childhood. Mlodinow’s description of the role that geometry played in ancient Egypt and other remote civilizations is fascinating too. Since more of the book is devoted to history than to anything else, maybe that's as it should be.
Stylistically the book was not entirely to my taste either. Mlodinow’s humor is often contrived, and his repeated inclusion of his own sons to personalize discussions quickly lost its charm. I have no doubt that Alexei and Nicholai are delightful youngsters, but Alexei’s decision to dye his hair blue before attending school one day, like the other adventures real and imaginary, that Mlodlinow recounts, added little to my understanding or enjoyment. Technically the audiobook reflects Audible.com’s usual high standards. Robert Blumenfeld’s performance is marred by only a couple of mispronunciations and a tone that occasionally seems a bit precious.
As you can see from the content of this review, my specific objections to the book are all minor, perhaps even petty; but at the end of the day, having listened to the entire audio version, I felt basically unsatisfied. Professor Mlodinow has written another popular book about mathematics entitled Drunkard’s Walk, which deals with the role of random processes in the physical world, a topic that interests me a great deal; but, based on my experience with Euclid’s Window, I’m not going to get it. What more can I say?
I am a 27 year old nurse pursuing a nurse practitioner degree. My favorite book genres are: fantasy, science fiction, medicine and sociology
I love non fiction and learning about something new. I was very surprised at how clever the writing was in this book. Some one-liners downright had me laughing out loud. At one point, my brother (22 years old and a law student without much math or science in his background) sat through an hour long car ride in which I listened to this audio book, and even from a random point in the book, he found himself exclaiming in surprise at some interesting facts he learned, and laughing at the clever jokes and side comments.
I have to say that I learned something, but furthermore enjoyed learning it. It didn't feel tremendously technical or too plodding and long. It also explores the contributing social circumstances and history of the various mathematicians and scientists mentioned within its pages, which helps create a broad knowledge base on the topics at hand and about the people behind the discoveries as well.
Making Hyperbolic Geometry fun and interesting to the general reader deserves a great review. In the next edition replace "Jesuits" and "Franciscans" with "Benedictines" and give examples of (actual) modern geometrical reasoning in side boxes.
I really love both history and mathematics, so this was the perfect read for me.
In college, I was so focused on problem solving, I wasn't able to step away from the text to really delve into the story behind the Geometry. This read affords me that chance and has me going back to some of my old text and rediscovering what I really love about mathematics.
Very much recommended for anyone who loves history and is fascinated by mathematics ;-)!