Logicomix


logicomixOver the last couple of days I’ve been enjoying a new graphic novel–Logicomix— about the hunt for logical certainty in mathematics (starring Betrand Russell, with appearances by Frege, Cantor, Godel, Wittgenstein and Whitehead). Here’s the authors’ description:

Covering a span of sixty years, the graphic novel Logicomix was inspired by the epic story of the quest for the Foundations of Mathematics. This was a heroic intellectual adventure most of whose protagonists paid the price of knowledge with extreme personal suffering and even insanity. The book tells its tale in an engaging way, at the same time complex and accessible. It grounds the philosophical struggles on the undercurrent of personal emotional turmoil, as well as the momentous historical events and ideological battles which gave rise to them. The role of narrator is given to the most eloquent and spirited of the story’s protagonists, the great logician, philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell. It is through his eyes that the plights of such great thinkers as Frege, Hilbert, Poincaré, Wittgenstein and Gödel come to life, and through his own passionate involvement in the quest that the various narrative strands come together.

It’s well worth having a look at and has gotten some nice attention/reviews from a variety of media. Here’s an excerpt from NY Times Books:

Is it madness to be driven by a passion for something as inhuman as abstract certainty? This is a question the four creators of “Logicomix” ponder as, in a beguiling coda, they make their way through nighttime Athens to an open-air performance of the “Oresteia.” Oddly enough, Aeschylus’ trilogy furnishes the concluding wisdom, which, at the risk of triteness, I’ll condense into a mathematical inequality:  Life > logic.

Read the rest here. Purchase here.

4 thoughts on “Logicomix

  1. Shahar,

    My parents got this for me for my birthday. They saw it in the Netherlands, where it’s being sold in Dutch (it actually is a really big place for logic now) and bought me the English one.

    I thought it was really amazing. The authors manage to explain so many fundamental results in an accessible manner. I loved the description of Russell’s paradox. It succeeds aesthetically as a graphic novel too.

    It was nice to see Russell get a sympathetic take after the unforgiving tone of much of Ray Monk’s (otherwise excellent) two volume biography.

    Jon

  2. The “birds” in Devendra Banhart’s beard look more like lice and the cloud of flies that used to follow Pigpen around in the Charlie Brown comic strip. I don’t know how that Star Wars actress puts up with him.

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