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Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About

Donald E. Knuth
Center for the Study of Language and Information
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
CSLI Lecture Notes 136
[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
, on

Don Knuth's Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About is a fascinating book. Knuth is well known in the mathematics community as the creator of TeX and as the author of The Art of Computer Programming. It is not as commonly known that he is the author of 3:16: Bible Texts Illuminated, which looks at verse 3:16 of each book of the Bible as a kind of "sampling" of the whole. This book, which is based on a series of lectures given at MIT, centers on Knuth's discussion and analysis of the 3:16 project. The book records both what Knuth said at the lectures and the lively question-and-answer sessions. (The lectures themselves were webcast and can still be viewed. See Knuth's web page for this book, which has a link to the webcast.) Knuth's musings about the interface between computer science and Christian theology are definitely not what one usually hears computer scientists talking about, but I'm glad Knuth was willing to take the risk of discussing them.

Fernando Q. Gouvêa ( is the editor of FOCUS and MAA Online. He teaches both "History of Mathematics" and "Number Theory", among others, at Colby College. He is a number theorist whose main research focus is on p-adic modular forms and Galois representations.

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