House style

My review of Genius at Play: the Curious Mind of John Horton Conway, by Toronto-based writer Siobhan Roberts, was published today in Nature, under the title The mercurial mathematician and also under the above photo of Conway.  I include a link to the image because Nature is behind a paywall.  If you have access, you can find the article here; if not, all you need to know is that I give the book a very strong recommendation. And I guess it’s also important to mention that, as you might expect, there are three elephants in the book, on pp. 165, 378, and 379.

Nature, it turns out, is not content to be merely natural; it has a “house style.”  Or at least its book review section does.  A quoted sentence I particularly appreciated had to be excised because my surrounding text didn’t conform to house style.  Here’s what Roberts wrote “at [what I called] one of many bewildering turns” in her attempts to establish the facts of Conway’s life:

Onward we tumble through the surreal mineshaft of memory.

Any biography must be a bit of a tumble; Conway’s is more surreal than most.

UPDATE:  Roberts has published a long excerpt from the book in today’s Guardian.  So you can see for yourself how good the book is.

5 thoughts on “House style

  1. David Roberts

    “which purports to prove that if humans have free will, then so do elementary particles”

    I remember that result coming out, and it didn’t strike me as quite like that!


    1. mathematicswithoutapologies Post author

      Probably because you don’t remember reading the first paragraph of the Conway-Kochen paper:

      Do we really have free will, or, as a few determined folk maintain, is it all an illusion? We don’t know, but will prove in this paper that if indeed there exist any experimenters with a modicum of free will, then elementary particles must have their own share of this valuable commodity.


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