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NOW I have a reading list

  1. Dec 29, 2010 #1
    Thanks to a few posters here, an amazon wishlist, and my wife, I now have a few books to get through. I'm wondering how to approach some of them, especially the heavier material.

    As per Mathwonk's advice on reading the work of the old greats, I have "The Works of Archimedes" by T.L. Heath. An entire half of the book is an introduction (hard enough to follow the roman numerals for 200 pages, or I think it's 200 pages). The second page is archimedes works. From what I can see it's in the form of letters written to others. There is very minimal footnoting in the second half, probably thanks to the first half, and I really like this format. I do not like being continually interrupted by footnotes when I'm reading.

    And now I have Newton's Principia. It is completely without notes or an introduction, again which has a lot of advantages. Though I might have to consult some outside sources during my reading

    "Lighter" reading consists of a book on algebra word problems, and Fermat's Enigma. Not much of a problem with these two. I have just finished (in a weekend) Timothy Gower's "Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction." This was purchased by a happy accident, as my wife thought she heard me talk about Gowers when I was talking about Gauss. She went searching for a mathematician named Gowers and found this book. It turned out to be a perfect read for me at this time. I freakin' love my wife.

    Anyway, my question is how to approach Archimedes and Newton. My background is one semester of calculus, some time ago, and I'm re-starting with pre-calculus in College starting in spring after re-educating myself on the basics.

    The most basic question is which to read first, or even if they should be read in tandem somehow. That's an easy question to ask.

    My next question is more vaguely to ask "How I should approach such a text?" How much time should I give myself? How much might I need to look outside the sources themselves for clarification? Is this a case to highlight and/or scribble with abandon? (Something I usually don't do with books, because I don't like to write in them.)

    Advice appreciated. Thanks.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2011 #2


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    you don't (need to) slog through them like a text, you just read any page that catches your fancy. these books are so loaded that if you find even one page, or even one sentence, that speaks to you, you will learn something others do not know. E.g. somewhere in Archimedes he remarks that a sphere is a cone whose height is its radius and whose base is its surface area. if you understand just that, you are ahead of many current mathematicians.
  4. Jan 2, 2011 #3
    Perhaps I'm being overly ambitious about wanting to read the whole thing, then. I think the first half, which is a very long introduction is probably worth reading straight through. I've tried reading a few page of Archimedes but nothing is clicking yet. I'm very much stumbling around here as if in a dark room, but as I get into my studies it may begin to shed some light on things.

    Thanks always for your help. You're a great asset here.

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