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Conceptual Calculus

AuthorJack Uretsky Entered2002-03-16 22:17:04 by bcrowell
Editedit data record FreedomCopyrighted, doesn't cost money to read, but otherwise not free (disclaimer)
SubjectQ.A - Mathematics. Computer science (analysis)
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sloppy and incomplete
by Ben Crowell (crowell09 at (change 09 to current year)) on 2004-06-07 09:06:49, review #401
This book opens with a grand manifesto about what's wrong with other calculus books and how the authors are correcting that with their own opus. Maybe they should have written the book first and then the manifesto. I probably wouldn't have bothered to start reading the book if it had been apparent from Dr. Uretsky's web page that it currently consists of chapters 1, 2, 3, and 30. (Chapter 3 is inexplicably relegated to a separate PDF file.) The date on the book's cover is July 2000, so the project appears to have been abandoned.

The first thing one notices is that the PDF files use embedded bitmapped fonts, which Acrobat Reader can't display properly, and the result looks like a ransom note that's been sent through a fax machine. This is a common problem with LaTeX, but there is a well known workaround. The PDF file of chapter 3 actually crashed Adobe Acrobat, and was completely illegible when I opened it in another viewer.

The authors have been sloppy with this book in general. There are figures that fall off the edge of the page, inexplicable switches back and forth between British and American styles of punctuation, and many other problems.

All these problems wouldn't have grated on me so much except that they're in dramatic contrast to the intellectually superior tone of passages like the following:

The mathematical content of the book is hard to judge, since it's incomplete, and I wasn't able to solve the technological challenge of viewing chapter 3. However, there is no mention of whether it has been tested at all, and I can't help suspecting that it would work very poorly with real live students. The second homework problem in chapter 1, for example, seems to require quite an intellectual leap.

Note added June 7, 2004: The second author of the book e-mailed me to ask me to remove his name from the catalog entry here on The Assayer.

Information wants to be free, so make some free information.

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