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Looking at mathematical literature as literature

Stanford University News have posted a press release/interview with Reviel Netz about his book Ludic Proof: Greek Mathematics and the Alexandrian Aesthetic.

In the book, Prof Netz considers ancient Greek mathematical texts as works of literature, comparing them with other written works from the time.

Professor Netz argues that Hellenistic mathematical writings adopt a narrative strategy based on surprise, a compositional form based on a mosaic of apparently unrelated elements, and a carnivalesque profusion of detail. He further investigates how such stylistic preferences derive from, and throw light on, the style of Hellenistic poetry.

It’s interesting to think about how what constitutes a “proof” has changed over the years, and how the way a proof is presented affects your reading of it, separately from the logical methods used. The interview is very short, and worth a read.

Also worth looking at is this  rather nice website about the Archimedes Palimpsest, made to accompany the Neumann Prize-winning book The Archimedes Codex written Reviel Netz and William Noel.

Interview: Inside a mathematical proof lies literature, says Stanford’s Reviel Netz

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