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Among other micro-calamities in my life, I  have no idea where my copy of Brother Number One is.  So I went to lunch without reading material today (and without Elle..she is out of town :( ). I thought I had brought work to do with me, but when I looked  in my backpack it wasn't there.

So I went to the  school bookstore (right next to the faculty dining room) and purchased a copy of MetaMath!  by Gregory Chaitin.
I thought  I would enjoy reading his musings on Godel's incompleteness theorem, the halting problem, and his own work with Chaitin's omega.

I read a couple of chapters over lunch. Chaitin is a great mathematician. As for his writing skills, let's just say he is a great mathematician.

He really should have hired a ghostwriter. He uses bold type to emphasize points, he overuses exclamation marks, and he uses the first person a lot.

Here is a sample of his writing:

I am a mathematician, and this is a book about mathematics. So I'd like to start by sharing with you my vision of mathematics...So you and I are going to do some real mathematics together: important mathematics, significant mathematics. I will try to make it as easy as possible, but I'm going to show you the real thing!

He desperately needs an editor. Or better, a ghostwriter. Half of the first paragraph belongs in the circular file. I know you are a mathematician, and I know it's a book about mathematics. That's why I bought it, moron.

I suspect he is trying too hard to make the book friendly to laymen. But it's not necessary to write like the love child of Ned Flanders and a hyperactive cheerleader to make your book accessible. A good example of a book easily understood by laymen that doesn't insult their intelligence is A  History Of Pi by Petr Beckmann (the gold standard of math history books).

I should say that I am judging this book only by what little I've read so far. And I have to admit  that I have so far found at least one mathematical gem amidst the cotton candy. He provides  a fascinating information theoretical proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers. As I have conceded , he is a great mathematician.

Perhaps I did not  completely waste my money. But right now, I would rather have my copy of Brother Number One and be reading about the killing fields of Cambodia. It's grim stuff, but nowhere near as embarrassing or annoying.


I am completely enamored with the concept of a micro-calamity. Thank you for introducing that combination word.