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Gödel, Escher, Bach

Has anyone on here read Gödel, Escher, Bach?

I recently read a Jon Ronson book - The Psychopath Test and he mentions the above tome during the course of one of the chapters.

I grabbed a copy from B&N the other night as it sounds like a fascinating read.

Any thoughts on it?
 
bigbadwolf - Did you find it an interesting read?

I found the bits about Godel and Escher interesting but I don't know anything about music so when Hofstadter was discussing Bach's fugues, he lost me. It's not on my list of all-time greats. I think I've still got a copy in the basement downstairs.
 
I found the bits about Godel and Escher interesting but I don't know anything about music so when Hofstadter was discussing Bach's fugues, he lost me. It's not on my list of all-time greats. I think I've still got a copy in the basement downstairs.
What's your list of all-time greats? I'm looking for something to read.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
I found the bits about Godel and Escher interesting but I don't know anything about music so when Hofstadter was discussing Bach's fugues, he lost me. It's not on my list of all-time greats. I think I've still got a copy in the basement downstairs.

I must say that these 'cultish' books never appealed to me. Tried once to read the Hitchhiker's Guide but stopped half-way :)
Halfway through Fountainhead at the moment...
And stuck at page 10 of Finnegans Wake since 2006.
 
I must say that these 'cultish' books never appealed to me.

They're written for a lay audience that wants to be titillated and doesn't want to put in any serious work. To understand Godel, one would have to put in some work to understand Godel numbering, and understand how that itself was an outgrowth of -- or at least inspired by -- Cantor's diagonal proof of the uncountability of the reals. There were other such books, drawing similar superficial comparisons between ostensibly disparate areas, written at the time (late '70s and early '80s) -- e.g., a number of books drawing comparisons with zen and quantum physics (such as The Dancing Wu Li Masters). In fairness, Hofstadter's book is better and meatier than these Eastern mysticism + quantum physics books (or so my memory tells me).
 
Speaking of all-time greats, Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game" (published in 1943) is one of my favorites, and the Archdruid's recent review of the book (and the game described therein) recalls some of the interplay between music (Bach) and math (Godel) in Hofstadter's book:

For reasons I’ll develop in a forthcoming post, I want to take a moment here to talk a bit about the Game itself as Hesse envisioned it. It emerged, according to his invented history, out of the fields of mathematics and musicology, as scholars found common patterns underlying the two disciplines—the structure of a geometric proof, let’s say, sharing the same abstract form as a Bach fugue or a Gregorian chant. Early on, the game was played with an abacus-like device with wires representing the conventional musical staff, and glass beads of different sizes, colors, shapes, and so on—thus the name of the Game—providing a more complex alphabet in place of simple musical notes. Later on, a formal mathematical script was developed; more scholarly disciplines took up the Game, finding their own abstract patterns and relating them to the musico-mathematic core ...

The book is also a favorite among some mathematicians.
 
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