Posted by Jason Polak on 18. November 2012 · Write a comment · Categories: books · Tags: , ,

Paul R. Halmos, who worked on fields from ergodic theory to algebraic logic and who authored the textbooks “Naive Set Theory” and “Measure Theory”, details much of his academic life in his autobiography, “I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography”
. In this post I shall give a few of my impressions of this book.

Halmos writes almost exclusively on his professional life as a mathematician and provides commentary and opinions on research, supervising, teaching, administrative work, and it even includes a math problem or two. In contrast, he rarely writes about his personal life or his other interests besides mathematics. As a mathematics student however, I never thought this as a deficiency and Halmos’s lively and engaging writing kept me steadily reading until the end.
More »

Posted by Jason Polak on 28. January 2012 · Write a comment · Categories: books, modules · Tags: , ,

As it happens every so often, I browse the mathematical library pseudorandomly, and look out for interesting titles; usually a prerequisite for interesting is that they have something to do with the realm of algebra. This is exactly how I found Faith’s book, with its captivating title urging me to borrow it.

Now, inevitably in mathematical research, one has to efficiently skim through papers and books to find specific ideas and facts. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes it is easy to neglect the stimulation of the idle curiosity that probably brought most mathematicians into their fields in the first place, and so I try to combat this neglect by my idle browsing and blogging.

I try not to spend too much time on this so that I progress with my degree, but I try to nurture my curiosity through reading anything that looks interesting. Returning to books, I do believe there are few worse literary follies than a graduate algebra textbook that lacks imagination in its examples and theorems and passion in its explication. I only fear that such books will tend to promote in the learning of higher algebra what most institutions have done with calculus, and that is to make it a tiresome mechanical effort, washing away the once vibrant and fanciful colours from the gentle tendrils of the mind.

But fear not! Should the mental dessication start to occur in a young algebraist’s mind; should the flames of passion dim for the wonders of the injective module, she can always turn to the entire object of this post, videlicet Faith’s “Rings and Things and a Fine Array of Twentieth Century Associative Algebra”
. I refer to the second edition, incidentally, which corrects many errors from the 1st edition.

More »