A collection of short proofs tackling fundamental problems and paradoxes in mathematics.
Connor bombastically makes it clear that his quarry is the truth, however iconoclastic it might be, and that he has no reverence for the intellectual idols of academic mathematics: “Truth is an outrage; it does not defer to authority.” In that spirit, he challenges some fundamental conventions in modern math: He rejects imaginary numbers and provides what he claims is a disproof of Euler’s famous formula (and uses it to recalculate the speed of light), completes Fermat’s theorem, resolves Cantor’s paradox, and demonstrates the irrationality of pi—all in fewer than 50 pages of terse language and symbol-laden formulae. Obviously, this is a book that’s singularly intended for the mathematically sophisticated. There’s no overriding theme to the essays beyond the author’s ambition, which one can’t help but find impressive. Also, Connor’s command of the subject matter, including the pertinent scholarly literature, is beyond reproach. However, his arguments and proofs are developed so rapidly, and with so little explanation and commentary, that even the most mathematically astute readers will find them hard to parse and not entirely convincing. For example, in a discussion of Cantor’s paradox, the author contends that the notion of a set of all sets is logically impermissible. Not only is this position less than persuasive, given the brevity of its exposition, but he omits any treatment of the paradox’s extraordinary stakes, which, for Cantor, involved humanity’s basic (and errant) intuitions about infinity. Similarly, the author’s jarringly abridged treatment of Euler’s formula—about a page and a half of discussion—glosses over its centrality to complex number theory and trigonometry. In another chapter, Connor provides a solution to a problem that “bedeviled” the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell in his youth, regarding the nature of propositions, but he neither provides a definition of propositions nor discusses why Russell considered it to be such an important problem. Overall, each section reads like an outline for a longer essay that’s yet to be completed.
An ambitious but overly abbreviated assemblage of arguments.