The Joy of Abstraction
An Exploration of Math, Category Theory, and Life
by Eugenia Cheng
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Pub Date 13 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 06 Oct 2022
Mathematician and popular science author Eugenia Cheng is on a mission to show you that mathematics can be flexible, creative, and visual. This joyful journey through the world of abstract mathematics into category theory will demystify mathematical thought processes and help you develop your own thinking, with no formal mathematical background needed. The book brings abstract mathematical ideas down to earth using examples of social justice, current events, and everyday life – from privilege to COVID-19 to driving routes. The journey begins with the ideas and workings of abstract mathematics, after which you will gently climb toward more technical material, learning everything needed to understand category theory, and then key concepts in category theory like natural transformations, duality, and even a glimpse of ongoing research in higher-dimensional category theory. For fans of How to Bake Pi, this will help you dig deeper into mathematical concepts and build your mathematical background.
‘This book is an educational tour de force that presents mathematical thinking as a right-brained activity. Most ‘left brain/right brain’ education-talk is at best a crude metaphor; but by putting the main focus on the process of (mathematical) abstraction, Eugenia Cheng supplies the reader (whatever their ‘brain-type’) with the mental tools to make that distinction precise and potentially useful. The book takes the reader along in small steps; but make no mistake, this is a major intellectual journey. Starting not with numbers, but everyday experiences, it develops what is regarded as a very advanced branch of abstract mathematics (category theory, though Cheng really uses this as a proxy for mathematical thinking generally). This is not watered-down math; it’s the real thing. And it challenges the reader to think-deeply at times. We ‘left-brainers’ can learn plenty from it too.’ Keith Devlin, Stanford University (Emeritus), author of The Joy of Sets
'Finally, a book about category theory that doesn’t assume you already know category theory! In this inviting but rigorous introduction to what she calls ‘the mathematics of mathematics’, Eugenia Cheng brings the subject to us with insight, wit, and a point of view. Her story of finding joy-and advantage-in abstraction will inspire you to find it, too.' Patrick Honner, award-winning high school math teacher, columnist for Quanta Magazine, author of Painless Statistics
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