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4.0 von 5 Sternen It's Pi, Stupid
If you're curious about where things like Pi come from, and you don't already know, this book is probably a good place to start. It is not quite as comprehensive as I would have liked; Beckmann overlooks some explanations that he probably assumed would have been so obvious as to offend the reader. But the lack of a complete explanation for some points is not fatal to...
Veröffentlicht am 23. Dezember 1999 von Aguagado

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1.0 von 5 Sternen A Slice of Pi You Can Live Without
Since I'm somewhat of a fan of books that cover the history of science and math, I had to buy this one when I saw it. In the preface, the author notes that since he is neither a mathematician nor a historian he is the perfect one to write this book. It turns out that both his math and his history and leave much to be desired.
Regarding mathematical proofs,...
Veröffentlicht am 28. September 1997 von kerr@wizard.net


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1.0 von 5 Sternen A Slice of Pi You Can Live Without, 28. September 1997
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
Since I'm somewhat of a fan of books that cover the history of science and math, I had to buy this one when I saw it. In the preface, the author notes that since he is neither a mathematician nor a historian he is the perfect one to write this book. It turns out that both his math and his history and leave much to be desired.
Regarding mathematical proofs, Beckmann made a concious decision to ply the middle ground between mere hand-waving and totally rigorous proofs. The end result is a scattering of proofs that are neither easy enough to simply read and understand, nor detailed enough to follow to completion.
Petr Beckmann's treatment of history gives the impression that the world has been populated by only two classes of inhabitants: the evil and barbaric (Romans, Christians, Soviets) or the enlightened (Greeks, Chinese, English). His loathing for the Romans is particularly intense, and distracting to the extreme, especially since he takes random swipes at them throughout the entire first half of the book.
There are interesting tidbits scattered throughout the book, but most of these can be gleaned from other history of math books. Much of the book is also dated, such as his treatment of the four-color problem, which was proven recently. This can be forgiven, since the book is over twenty years old, but it does reduce its value as a read even lower than its minimal initial level.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting math, period-piece politics, a hardcover flame, 7. April 1997
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
The cold-war era spawned a group of people who believed that the greatest threat to humanity was Soviet Communism. Beckmann was a mordant, informed example of kind. In reading this book, I got the feeling that he couldn't write a grocery list without taking a few good swipes at the Russians. He had a few other targets on his list: anti-nuclear activists, new-age mystification pedlars, and organized religion, at least in the forms that have achieved totalitarian power in society.

Like the Irish of James Joyce's Ulysses, he finds the Roman Empire to be an overblown, violent, anti-intellectual tyranny. Unlike the Irish, he thinks that the Brits are wonderful. After all, they took good care of Isaac Newton.

Scattered around this leavening of political rhetoric is a mathematical history of pi. Here, too, there's a polemic. Beckman dosen't like modern math teaching methods. Nonetheless, the material is interesting. You can imagine the sarcastic field-day that he gets out of the Indiana State Legislature's near-miss at legislating pi to be equal to 3.

The book ends with a badly dated and rather uninformed exploration of computerized calculations of pi.

All in all, I found the book to be a window into a rather obsessive personality. I'm not sure I care enough about the various calculations of pi to justify the toasty feeling of reading a 100 page flame.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen It's Pi, Stupid, 23. Dezember 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
If you're curious about where things like Pi come from, and you don't already know, this book is probably a good place to start. It is not quite as comprehensive as I would have liked; Beckmann overlooks some explanations that he probably assumed would have been so obvious as to offend the reader. But the lack of a complete explanation for some points is not fatal to the book. After all, the subject matter has a deliberately narrow focus.
Some of the criticisms have pointed out Beckmann's tendency to use this book as a sounding board for his biases. And, to be sure, the book is peppered with curious asides that are largely irrelevant to the tale of Pi. Happily, they can be overlooked without detracting from the main story.
If I were addressing my comments to the readers of Grisham or King, I'd be concerned about the power of those comments to offend. But mindful that the 'average' reader of 'A History of Pi' is nothing like the 'average reader' of books generally, I suspect most readers will be either amused or bored by these little diversions, but that few will be offended. (I was amused by Beckmann, who reminds me of a cantankerous uncle.) Overall, the reader comes away with a greater appreciation for the history of this curious number.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An antidote to today's hyper-sensitive history, 22. März 2000
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
My kind of book: A seemingly mundane subject that packs a punch. Those expecting an exhaustive mathematical treatise should remember that this is a HISTORY of pi, including the events and people that colored it. Beckmann is opinionated, and thankfully so! History is a story composed of characters that either advance or impede human progress, and Beckmann shines the spotlight on both, heaping scorn and reverence without regard to who's ox is being gored. In the process, he manages to annoy all the right groups (organized religion, fascists, communists) making him unpopular with some, but rare is the factual rebuttal to any of his charges. Indeed, the primary complaint seems not to be that he's wrong but that he's particularly unforgiving of history's morons. There's enough conceptual math and intriguing history to please both mathematicians and historians, particularly those tired of the politically correct drivel that so permeates popular science today. A truly great read.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Brilliant and controversial -- Which a book should be!, 7. September 1999
Von Ein Kunde
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
Dr. Petr Beckmann was never one to mince words. He quotes a biblical passage that strongly implies that pi equals 3, and while he is never disrespectful to the Bible, he does mock the tortured attempts of some fundamentalists to reconcile this passage with the actual value of pi.
He also mocks the Indiana State Legislature (which, in 1897, nearly passed a law that set the value of pi at about 9.23), and Theodore Heisel (who, in 1931, wrote a mathematical treatise that ignored 4000 years of progress in determining pi).

But he praises Archimedes and Newton, among others, for their heroic and quiet progress in determining the value and application of pi. And, sadly, he concludes that the Heisels of the world are more numerous than the Archimedes.

Great book. But it must be read with an open mind.
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2.0 von 5 Sternen Historiographical Rant + Dense Geometric Proofs = 3.14159..., 10. Dezember 1999
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Jon McAuliffe (Philadelphia, PA United States) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
(REAL NAME)   
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
The thematic dissonance Dr. Beckmann serves up in this ostensible history of science treatise starts off very amusing, grows annoying towards the middle and ends up with you shopping for some other book on pi. As I finished the first chapter, I began to wonder whether other readers had noticed the bait-and-switch: a manuscript with seemingly scholarly intentions had been shanghaied by a cranky technocrat into service for a diatribe against everything from Aristotle to fascism.
The real let-down came several chapters further on. I largely agree with the political and historiographical assessments Dr. Beckmann preaches in his book: yes, Aristotle was a scientific dullard now lauded by posterity; yes, the Romans were mathematical morons who didn't even understand the hydrodynamics of their own aqueducts; yes, National Socialism was bad. I'll even concede that Dr. Beckmann's sardonic prose sometimes made the ubiquitous tangents an entertaining diversion. Still and all, what about pi? This is by far the tersest mathematical presentation of difficult ideas I have ever seen in a popular science text. Some of the explanations about mathematical reasoning are positively opaque --- but by the end you're grateful when there's any explanation at all.
I have to entertain the uncomfortable possibility that Dr. Beckmann omitted a thorough discussion of the technical points so that he could cram the proofs as well as his ideological agenda into a fixed number of words.
"A History of Pi", to give due credit, does touch on the major historical events in the study of this beautiful number (as long as you're prepared to forgive the limited coverage of computational developments, given the book's age). If an ad hoc mixture of political commentary, historical revisionism and dense geometric reasoning is what you're in the mood for, you've picked a winner. Otherwise you ought to look elsewhere. I learned much more about the history and role of pi from "E: The Story of a Number", by Eli Maor, than I did from "A History of Pi".
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A mathematics book for the book shelf!, 12. Juli 1999
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
I bought this book in hardcover over 20 years ago. The book has been translated into over 20 languages and has served as a stimulus and inspiration for hundreds of future mathematicians of all colors, shapes, and sizes.
The Japanese mathematician who calculated Pi to over 5 billion places, read the book in Japanese over twenty years ago.
The book has inspired me to write a similar book about Pythagorean triples. A related book is "e, The story of a number." Also recommended is "The Ascent of Man" by Bronowski.
ONE FOR THE LIBRARY.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Funny, erudite, and as MORAL as it is LOGICAL, 6. Dezember 1998
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
Read "Consilience"? So far as "Consilience" has points to make, this little book makes the same points, but makes them with biting wit-- and in less than half the words!
Don't be put off by the terrifying-looking equations. They are to this narrative as mind- numbing descriptions of flora and fauna and the contents of living rooms are to novels-- just there to satisfy detail-fanatics that the homework has been dutifully done. That is, you can safely skim 'em and still "get the point"-- plus enjoy a whacking good yarn!
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1.0 von 5 Sternen A poorly baked pi, 24. März 1998
Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
There is little to recommend about this title. The author seems to wander into different tangents while getting off of the subject at hand, namely pi. There is little chronological order as shown in many excerpts where he covers a span of 600 years in as little as one page. I find my self constantly referring to the generously given dates strewn about, trying to determine the order of discovery or the century in which he has just jumped to.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Book of amazement, 29. Januar 2000
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: A History of Pi (Taschenbuch)
After reading this book I felt like I was part of something that I had never felt before. I felt that I was part of the history of pi baecause I knew basically everything about it. This book is so jam packed full of information about pi that it was actually hard for me to put down. I recommend this book greatly to any and everyone even if they have no knwledge about pi to begin with.
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A History of Pi
A History of Pi von Petr Beckmann (Taschenbuch - 31. Dezember 1976)
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