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The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel

1 rating: 5.0
A book by William Goldbloom Bloch

   "Mr. Bloch, professor of mathematics at Wheaton College, has woven an elegant, ingenious, scholarly interpretation of Borges's text that contradicts the disingenuous 'unimaginable' of his title."--New York Sun   … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Mathematics, Jorge Luis Borges
Author: William Goldbloom Bloch
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 review about The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges'...

It is best to familiarize yourself with the short story, "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges before you read it

  • Dec 2, 2009
Rating:
+5
If you read this book without doing a little bit of familiarizing yourself with the short story, "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges, you will be starting the process from a weak position. The story describes a universe composed of an immense library of all books of 410 pages having a specified format. The library is constructed from a series of hexagonally shaped rooms, with four walls covered by books and each room contains the necessities for human survival. The order and content of the books is random, so the vast majority contains nothing but gibberish and there is no labeling by content. There are librarians, but the disorder has put them into a mood of despair, for librarians desire order in the stacks.
The structure of this library forms the database for the mathematics described in this book. It begins with the combinatorial computations needed to fathom, if that is possible, the enormous number of rooms and books that must be in the library. While it is possible to compute the number of possibilities, the number is so large that it justifies the use of "unimaginable" in the title. Other aspects of mathematics demonstrated based on the parameters of the library are information theory, the topology of the library and the universe it is, graph theory is used to explain the complexity of accessing the books and the probability of finding a book that you care about.
It is written in a conversational style, while mathematical formulas are used when necessary, the bulk of the text is expository in nature with an emphasis on general understanding. Writing a math book where the starting point is an item of literature is an interesting process and Bloch performs the task very well.

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