The hitchhiker’s guide to infinity

I’ve had a few encounters with large numbers and the infinite lately. First, I came across this interesting blog post that asks how many times you would have to fold a piece of paper so that its thickness would be the same as the distance from the earth to the moon. It is a really…

Mathematics in Moby-Dick

Twice before I have posted mathematical passages that I have stumbled upon in works of literature. Yesterday I finished reading Moby-Dick (great book, great ending!), so I thought I’d highlight a few mathematical passages that it contains. Especially interesting to me is the second one in which Melville mentions the impossibility of squaring a circle….

Mathematics in novels and Martin Gardner RIP

I always enjoy encountering mathematics in non-mathematical works of fiction. (I posted excerpts from Candide and The Brothers Karamazov last fall.) Here are a few more that I came across recently. The first is in Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 murder mystery The Thin Man. Here is a conversation between private eye Nick Charles and his wife Nora at the…