Based on Mlodinow's extensive historical research; his studies alongside colleagues such as Richard Feynman and Kip Thorne; and interviews with leading physicists and mathematicians such as Murray Gell-Mann, Edward Witten, and Brian Greene, Euclid's Window is an extraordinary blend of rigorous, authoritative investigation and accessible, good-humored storytelling that makes a stunningly original argument asserting the primacy of geometry. For those who have looked through Euclid's Window, no space, no thing, and no time will ever be quite the same.
©2009 Leonard Mlodinow; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
A book about math, I know almost the definition of boring. NOT THIS ONE! I laughed and couldn't wait to get back to listening whenever I stopped. I was very sorry that it was over when done. I would buy a sequel in a heartbeat. The author is funny and makes the complex ideas understandable with everyday examples. Wonderfully well written and enjoyable.
I thought the author did an excellent job---particularly with the history up through Gauss---of crafting an interesting "story" out of the history of Geometry. Lots of fun anecdotes, many of which were new to me, and I think would be of interest to a reader interested in the subject.
I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but for someone who likes interesting non-fiction, it's not bad.
The author accomplishes a masterful survey of geometry from the beginning of time until today. I know, you are already yawning; that is probably because your high school geometry teacher was like mine. The level of detail was a perfect amalgam of accuracy and clarity. The historical characters he introduces throughout have more dimensions than just their mathematical prowess. These people, like his examples, are multi-dimensional and, in general, quite relevant.
A good book for the student (high-school or above) or adult who merely wants a better understanding of the geometry that permeates our experience.
The author does an excellent job of bringing subject matter from the realm of math and physics PhD's to those of us who can grasp the concepts but lack the training and tools to apply them. I enjoyed the narrator's performance and thought the dry wit of the author hit the right tone.
I especially enjoyed the historical connections and practical examples that were not difficult to visualize even without looking at text.
If you just want to know about Euclid the stop after the first three chapters. Discussion on Einstein helped me explain Relativity to my spouse in general terms. Area on Newton was OK but left out other contributors of the Age. I plan a second listen soon. More on the Ancients would have been nice since that is what I expected from the title.
The author of this book was surprisingly funny. He did a good job bringing you through the history of geometry. I just have one question, Wheres Euler?
Mlodinow's Euclid's window does not get the reader too deep into Geometry but presents more of an overview of the development of our abstract understanding of space. The part of the book that stands out for me is the development of Elliptic and Hyperbolic geometry with Riemann and Gauss. Here Mlodinow really shows the depth of his knowledge and does a great job. He also touches on interesting facts that Gauss had read Kant 5 times and then dropped his ideas as inadequate. He also seems to present a thesis that Mathematicians are born not made, as only 1 in 3 million individuals contribute creatively to the field. I did not feel that the development from Riemann to String Theory to Ed Witten’s M theory had the concepts as coherently explained as the section on curved spaces.
You will also find a bit of a polemic against religion and philosophy mostly in the first half of the book. The most interesting section was his story of Hypatia, and if you are looking to confirm anti-theist sentiment this is pretty persuasive. On a wider scale this book fits with the growing number of scientists that are anti-religion and anti-philosophy. Some of the stand out writers of this type are Stephen Hawking, Dan Dennet and Richard Dawkins but you also have second tier writers like Steven Weinberg and Leonard Mlodinow. You cannot learn too much science from books like this but the cultural voice of the physicist is interesting in pointing out how religious dogma holds back the pace of discovery and the freedom of the individual to follow wherever the facts lead. Anti-philosophy is also part of the mix for Mlodinow, for speculations without the guide of experiment mean nothing, he appeals to both Gauss and Feynman who called philosophy BS. There is a sense that to understand the world that science and mathematics is now the only path and that religion and philosophy should be left behind. The big question remains, who well can science, replace religion and philosophy?
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
I would describe this book as analogous to a community brown bag feast. There were quite a few good bits, but equal amounts of dense tough inedible bits of uncertain origin. I think the author tried and failed to cover much to wide of a field, and in the end left me with more questions than answers. I did gain a better understanding of the nature and role of geometry in modern science. But the author's tendency to digress into quick recitation of abstract and abstruse formulas was extremely frustrating. I recommend this book to those who want to understand the history of science, although there are quite a few better texts available from Audible. I don't recommend this book to anyone who is looking to learn more about either Euclid or Geometry.
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.
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