Mathematics began when practical thinkers like Archimedes decided to ignore naysayers like Zeno (whose paradoxes were meant to bury mathematics, not to praise it) and deal with nonsenses like pi and the square root of 1. How do such monstrosities yield such sensible results? Because mathematics is magical. Deal with it.
Reviewing new books by Paul Lockhart and Ian Stewart for The Spectator
Darren McFarlane, Scarus, Pomacanthus, 2012, oil on canvas. (University of Dundee Museum Services © the artist)
Even as geneticists like Ernst Mayr and Theodosius Dobzhansky were revealing the genetic mechanisms that constrain how living things evolve, Thompson was revealing the constraints and opportunities afforded to living things by physics and chemistry. Crudely put, genetics explains why dogs, say, look like other dogs. Thompson did something different: he glimpsed why dogs look the way they do.
For New Scientist, 1 February 2017
Thanks to the review I wrote of Thinking in Numbers, an excellent collection of essays about the psychology and culture of numbers, the RSA has invited me along to talk with the author Daniel Tammett on 27 Nov 2012 at 13:00. Follow this link for details of venue etc; you can also follow the event remotely through the following links