Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sort of a Book Blurb + Sort of Math = Weird Post

March critique giveaway open through March 28! Scroll down one post.

I usually post about MG books here, or books that ride the line between MG and YA. But that doesn't mean I don't read YA. One of my favorite authors is, in fact, the YA writer John Green. Not because I like all of his books equally well (I don't, actually), but because as far as the sheer intelligence of his writing, and his ability to convey things I thought only I thought, I can't remember when I've encountered his like. I'll at least pick up anything he writes; that is for sure.

I recently read his newest novel, The Fault in Our Stars. And it. Is. Brilliant. This year, his (next) Printz may very well come.

However. The book says something that makes what's left of my mathematical mind (which has languished over three or so decades) shudder: That some infinities are bigger than others. That, for example, there are more numbers (not speaking solely of integers, but of all possible rationals and irrationals) between, say, zero and a million than between zero and one.

No, there aren't.

And here I'd really like to diverge from any direct comment on the novel. This is really no longer about the novel. It's just the compulsion that still arises within me every now and then to speak my mathematical piece.

No, some infinities are not bigger than others. Such a notion doesn't make sense. Between zero and one lies an infinite number of fractions and decimals, almost all of them irrational, or non-repeating decimals. 0.5039285715790432... and on and on; you get the picture. No pattern to them. This means there's always another one. And another one. And one more. And yet one more.

For every such number, for any number at all, that lies between zero and a million, you can find one that lies between zero and one to pair with it in a one-to-one correspondence. You will never run out of numbers between zero and one, any more than you'll run out of numbers between zero and a trillion bazillion.

And this is just one of the things that make math, and creation, amazingly cool.

15 comments:

Barbara Watson said...

Oh man. I get what you're saying. I think. :-) My husband is a math teacher and would like this post very much.

Mirka Breen said...

I'm going out to get this book for DS, the math-person in this house.

Crack You Whip said...

Interesting. I'm (slowly) working on a post about numbers, but they actually make my head hurt.

Marcia said...

Barbara and Mirka -- It's cool that each of your houses has a math person. :) I do think math people would tend to like John Green.

Crack You Whip -- I hope your head won't hurt TOO much. :) Actually, I recently found quite a collection of picture books that are math related. I hope they'll help kids make friends with math at a young age.

inluvwithwords said...

Okay, I'll admit it, this post is way over my head =/

Faith E. Hough said...

I've never read any of his books, actually--I'll have to check this one out (despite the math inaccuracies ;).
I wanted to thank you, too, for all the great book recommendations you make here. I just finished Secrets at Sea (loved it!) and just started The Aviary (love it so far!).

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Ugh, my head hurts. Math and I do not get along. We never have and I doubt we ever will. But I'm a huge fan of John Green and can hardly wait to read his latest.

Marcia said...

Ruth -- A couple of times I came out of my college math classes feeling like I'd just visited a different planet, or like there was so much more to REASONING than I ever thought. It was when math made me feel transported that I found the connection between math and story.

Faith -- I do have a feeling we'd like many of the same books. :) My favorite John Green books are An Abundance of Katherines and now his newest. I haven't liked all. But I do have some good book recs coming up, I think. I've been finding more books lately that I really enjoy.

Cynthia -- I think he's outdone himself this time. The Fault in our Stars will be up for many an award, I suspect.

Christina Farley said...

That is really an interesting thought. I'm so bad about numbers but they are facinating!

Marcia said...

Christina -- I think that's my attraction for numbers -- the fascination. The MYSTERY. :)

Susan Fields said...

Maybe you should have been around last night to help my son with his math homework. :)

Bish Denham said...

In high school I asked that very question of my math teacher. He got flustered. My father, the math wizard, tried to explain it to me, the math idiot, but I still can't picture it.

Marcia said...

Susan -- LOL.

Bish -- The teacher got flustered? Booooo. :)

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I thought this book was really well-written, too, and the characters were smart (maybe almost too smart; I couldn't help wondering if in John-Green world, having cancer automatically turns you into a genius). That is a really cool fact about numbers, though. Ever since that book, I've been noticing things about creation that are just amazing (and marveling at how even very smart people can miss it)!

Marcia said...

"I couldn't help wondering if in John-Green world, having cancer automatically turns you into a genius)."

LOL, Amy. That's actually a good point. Some writers love to write about smart characters (mea culpa) but that can seem unreal at times and that's good to remember. You might like SUGAR AND ICE by Kate Messner; there's quite a lot about the Fibonacci sequence and how it's all over nature.