Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity


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"A gripping guide to the modern taming of the infinite." —New York Times

Part history, part philosophy, part love letter to the study of mathematics, Everything and More is an illuminating tour of infinity. With his infectious curiosity and trademark verbal pyrotechnics, David Foster Wallace takes us from Aristotle to Newton, Leibniz, Karl Weierstrass, and finally Georg Cantor and his set theory. Through it all, Wallace proves to be an ideal guide—funny, wry, and unfailingly enthusiastic. Featuring an introduction by Neal Stephenson, this edition is a perfect introduction to the beauty of mathematics and the undeniable strangeness of the infinite.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393339284
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/04/2010
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 202,088
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Foster Wallace (1962—2008) is the author of Infinite Jest, Girl with Curious Hair, Everything and More, The Broom of the System, and other fiction and nonfiction. Among his honors, he received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers' Award.

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Date of Death:

September 12, 2008

Place of Birth:

Ithaca, NY

Place of Death:

Claremont, CA


B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

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Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Readers who are interested in the subject more than in math itself and who, like myself, have only a first year college math, will want to read this book twice. But I will go a step further than the Journal in saying that readers, when they feel they are getting lost, will stop, as I did, and put in a marker. They will then return to the last place where they felt comfortable and try again to 'cross the road', confident that it is possible (because Wallace says so) but all the while mindfull of the fact that there really is no end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Review of David Foster Wallace's 'Everything and More: A Compact History of {infinity}' Is this book merely an instance of the bland leading the blind? It may be more perilous than that, since readers with a genuine but uncultivated interest in the subjects which the book purports to address---roughly, the concept of 'infinity' in mathematics---may be more than merely mislead by Wallace's rambling, irreverent romp through soundbytes from the undergraduate math curriculum: they may be soured on the subjects themselves. The first---and cardinal---error committed by Wallace is his presentational style. His mistake is one that could only be committed but one who either lacked comprehension of the math behind the pop-sci summaries, or else was so contemptuous of those results that a sincere attempt to communicate the underlying ideas seemed superflous. Bluntly put, the first thing any prospective initiate into the world of mathematical thought must do is free himself from the need to accomodate one's thinking, reasoning---and indeed, presentational style---to the comfortable glibness prized in everyday discourse (and apparently, in certain long-winded works of fiction). Wallace probably believes that by adhering to a populist style, he will attract more readers to his subject. This may be true, but in so doing, he has marred the beauty of that subject so hopelessly beyond recognition that sincere readers will find little of value in his presentation. The book is not only not recommended, it is recommended to be avoided.
Pazzo More than 1 year ago
While in today's world of calculus and advanced math, we may take infinity for granted, this book is a great demonstration of the difficulties and benefits of abstract thought. Like how it wasn't until math became more abstracted (and removed from the physical reality) that it was able to provide science with profound real-world breakthroughs. A fiction writer of the non-science variety, DFW is brings his unique perspective and writing style to a truly fascinating subject. While the math can get heavy at times, he still manages to spin an intriguing narrative and show the trouble, paradoxes, and controversy throughout history caused by the very concept of infinity.
Galizur on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The one mathematics book that Wallace wrote, "Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity", was written in 2003. This is the literary equivalent of being kicked in the groin by a Martian, or an anatomically correct troll doll. Ostensibly, it shouldn't exist, but it does. Wallace attended Amherst and majored in English and philosophy, with a focus on mathematics and logic. He was not, however, very good at mathematics, as he mentions in "Everything and More". In fact, he claims to have done poorly in every mathematics class he had ever taken, except one (which was likely the differential equations class with a Dr. Goris that he mentions). This comes across in his arguments, which are very convoluted and difficult to understand. Consequently, a person who is not good at mathematics has no chance of understanding what they are reading; a person who is good at mathematics, on the other hand, would rapidly become annoyed by what they are reading. An excellent example is his discussion on Zeno's paradox. One way of putting this is that at every given instant an arrow in flight is motionless; if it's motionless at every point in time, it must therefore be stationary. The easiest (modern) way to explain this is that classical speed is undefined at a single point in time, but only over intervals. This is the beginning down a path that leads to differential and integral calculus. Wallace takes page after page to say what I just said in one sentence, but in a highly ornate and incomprehensible way. I'm not saying that this book has no value. It's value to me lies in the odd presentation. Clearly Wallace really likes mathematics, he's just not very good at it. Enthusiasm, for me at least, goes a long way.
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really don't need to read another book about infinity, but since this is by *David Foster Wallace* who is such a big-wig in the world of literature, I thought I'd give it a shot. The book is meant, as far as I can tell, to be an experiment, and IMHO the experiment fails. It attempts to be a chatty math book, and it attempts to play with language and typography (in a very mild way; lots of abbreviations, a rather aggressive breakdown into sections and footnotes).This sort of experimentation is obviously of interest to me in that I plan to be writing my own chatty physics book and playing with my own typography; obviously I certainly hope my version does not fall as flat with most readers as did this one with me. I do think I understand Wallace's biggest flaws.* Too much repetition of "This is all very complicated in the details" in various ways* Far far too much back-and-forth referencing, rather than an attempt to figure out how to lay out the book in such a way that a single monotonic increasing pass through it is satisfactoryOh, BTW, looking at the reviews of this and other DFW books on Amazon strongly suggests that this way this was written is the way DFW writes pretty much everything, which means I can cross him off the list of authors I'll bother reading in the future.
andypurshottam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Historical intro to set theory by essayist/novelist is written in idiosyncratic style to appeal to math phobics. Shows set theory created to formalize infinite reasoning needs of analysis. Has an introduction to diagonalization proofs, using |S|
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