Circles Disturbed brings together important thinkers in mathematics, history, and philosophy to explore the relationship between mathematics and narrative. The book's title recalls the last words of the great Greek mathematician Archimedes before he was slain by a Roman soldier--"Don't disturb my circles"--words that seem to refer to two radically different concerns: that of the practical person living in the concrete world of reality, and that of the theoretician lost in a world of abstraction. Stories and theorems are, in a sense, the natural languages of these two worlds--stories representing the way we act and interact, and theorems giving us pure thought, distilled from the hustle and bustle of reality. Yet, though the voices of stories and theorems seem totally different, they share profound connections and similarities.
A book unlike any other, Circles Disturbed delves into topics such as the way in which historical and biographical narratives shape our understanding of mathematics and mathematicians, the development of "myths of origins" in mathematics, the structure and importance of mathematical dreams, the role of storytelling in the formation of mathematical intuitions, the ways mathematics helps us organize the way we think about narrative structure, and much more.
In addition to the editors, the contributors are Amir Alexander, David Corfield, Peter Galison, Timothy Gowers, Michael Harris, David Herman, Federica La Nave, G.E.R. Lloyd, Uri Margolin, Colin McLarty, Jan Christoph Meister, Arkady Plotnitsky, and Bernard Teissier.
Apostolos Doxiadis is a writer whose books include Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture and Logicomix. Barry Mazur is the Gerhard Gade University Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Harvard University. His books include Imagining Numbers and Arithmetic Moduli of Elliptic Curves (Princeton).
"Editors Doxiadis and Mazur have compiled a collection of 15 essays that look at the many possible roles narrative can play in mathematics, which is usually considered far removed from storytelling. . . . Circles Disturbed will be of special value to collections in history of mathematics, philosophy of mathematics, and mathematical pedagogy."--Choice
"Circles Disturbed presents a cohesive narrative whose strength lies in helping each side to understand the other. It should encourage scientists to grasp the logic behind storytelling and literary critics to sense the allure of mathematics."--Mel Bayley, British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
"Well thought and well written and with a careful balance between erudition and down-to-earthness all through it, Circles Disturbed is a highly recommended reading for mathematicians and students of mathematics, as well as for anyone who wishes to better understand what it is to do mathematics and why they are done the way they are done."--Capi Corrales Rodrigánez, European Mathematical Society
"Circles Disturbed will spark interest in younger readers in the commonalities among these three disciplines as well as engage other readers. Further, readers with greater background in one or more topics can see the intra- and the intersections rather naturally and inquisitively. The diverse perspectives represented by the various authors are quite refreshing."--Farshid Safi, Mathematics Teacher
"Circles Disturbed offers a range of possibilities for how narrative can function in mathematics and how narratives themselves show signs of a mathematical structure. An intelligent, exploratory collection of writings by a distinguished group of contributors."--Theodore Porter, University of California, Los Angeles
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Barry Mazur: