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Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and Math Paperback – July 25, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Devoid of complex proofs and dense mathematical language; instead, the author has drawn upon his experience as a formative teacher to create a book rich in content that connects with real-world experiences.” —Library Journal

“Joseph Mazur brilliantly explores the symbiotic relationship between the physical and the mathematical worlds…A stylish and seductive book that convinces the mind even as it delights the soul.” —PEN American Center

From the Back Cover

"This charming book radiates love of mathematics and of life . . . A treasure of human experience and intellectual excitement."
Choice

"Devoid of complex proofs and dense mathematical language; instead, the author has drawn upon his experience as a formative teacher to create a book rich in content that connects with real-world experiences."
Library Journal

"Joseph Mazur brilliantly explores the symbiotic relationship between the physical and the mathematical worlds…A stylish and seductive book that convinces the mind even as it delights the soul."
—PEN American Center
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452287839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452287839
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #464,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

His full name is Joseph Conrad Mazur. His mother bought a used copy of Lord Jim in London on her way from Vienna to America, thinking that if she could read it with a dictionary it might improve her English. Like Mazur's mother, Conrad was Polish-born, so she felt that English written by a Pole must be easy to understand.

JOSEPH MAZUR is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Marlboro College where he has taught a wide range of classes in all areas of mathematics, its history and philosophy. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from M.I.T., and is a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Mathematics (Finalist of the 2005 PEN/​Martha Albrand Award and chosen as one of Choice's 2005 Outstanding Academic Titles of the Year) and the editor of the recently republished classic by Tobias Dantzig, Number: The Language of Science. He is the author of The Motion Paradox: The 2,500-Year Old Puzzle Behind All the Mysteries of Time and Space (Plume), What's Luck Got to do With it?, (Princeton), Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers (Princeton), and the forthcoming Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidences (Basic Books, available on March 29, 2016).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I should start by saying that I didn't read this book to learn anything about mathematics; I already knew all the math in it. But I have long been interested in ways to present math ideas to people who aren't strong in math. Mazur's approach of putting the math into stories sounded interesting.

For example, in the section on Euclid, Mazur starts with a story about soldiers in the Amazon rain forest trying to pull a truck out of a gully. This involves a bit of trigonometry, which leads to a discussion of the Pythagorean Theorem. But it's not really about geometry; it's about how mathematicians approach problems and how they prove their solutions and even what it means to say that some mathematical statement is true. Mazur illustrates this by showing two non-mathematicians struggling with the theorem, trying to arrive at a solid proof, whatever that means. How they arrive at the proof, and what it means for something to be a proof, are just what this book is about.

Who, other than a teacher of mathematics, can profit from this book? The target audience consists of people who don't have much math education but are interested. But there is significant use of diagrams, numbers, and algebra. (By algebra I mean the rules of arithmetic; you don't have to be able to solve equations.) If you have "math anxiety" you might have trouble getting past that. Then again, the chatty style is designed to ease you through, so you might give it a try.

You might decide that my review would be more useful if you knew a bit more about my background. If so, click on my name at the head of this review.
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Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book a couple of weeks ago and can hardly put it down. I work in the area of operation research for the Navy and have recently decided to become a highschool math teacher. There are so many interesting examples of math in this book and great stories to boot. This book is an excelent example of how math can be entertaining. I would recomend it to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of math.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an utter joy to read. Mazur gently leads the reader into mathematics through delightful adventure stories. I confess that I bought the book for its cover after reading the accolades on the back jacket, something I rarely do; but how could anyone refuse such an interesting title? Just read the first few pages and you are in for a whirl of a ride through rainforests of wonderfully explained math, made easy by Mazur's gentle approach. This is a unique book-one that is poetically written with a constant reminder that math is everywhere. Open it anywhere and jump in for a delightful ride. The journey gets a bit bumpy somewhere near chapter 5, but if you hold on tight, the jaunt is worth it, for it comes out at a clearing under the awesome rainbows of understanding and delightful colors of literary satisfaction.
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Format: Hardcover
This book might as well be called Love Stories about Mathematics. As as example, in the first few pages he is talking about a stranded truck in the Venezuelan jungle. How strong a winch do you need to pull the two ton truck up the hill? When you are pushing on the truck while being eaten by bugs, I don't know I'd think much about the simple trig problem. Or, in a horse race, from how far behind can a horse catch and pass the leading horse?

Dr. Mazur loves mathematics, math for itself, math just for its elegance. And he brings it across in this book. I can remember in my own math studies when I first got to differential calculus. It was like new worlds opening. It was like what other people tell me about the first time they heard Beethoven's Fifth.

What I could never have done was bring out the excitement, the fascination, the love that Dr. Mazur does in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
It is a rare occasion one happens upon such a beautiful and inspiring book. It's a work of art - as anyone who has ever tried to write anything from a simple essay, to a scientific paper - could tell you. This book is an amazing piece of writing, in which rigorous mathematical deduction and poetry dance together in perfect harmony.

I've never been to the Venezuelan rainforest, but mathematician Joseph Mazur made me feel as if I had taken an expedition up the Orinoco River in a hot 1960 summer. I have never been to Paris either, but I felt as if I was in Café Luxembourg while a famous professor explains a proof to a young American thirsty for knowledge.

The young American (young Dr Mazur) is the reason I loved this book, because his adventures and discoveries are so fascinating and true. Not only does he make me see what he sees (ah, all those wonderful places!), he also makes me feel and get excited about the same things he feels. There is much more going on than just trips all over the globe, and he tells you all about it.

Young Joseph Mazur and his friends travel and have a lot of fun while pondering mathematical theoretical questions and discovering the truth all around them. Every trip is an initiation into another chapter of history of mathematics, whether it is trigonometry, geometry, set theory or probability.

Euclid in the Rainforest is filled with interesting characters like Zeno, Achilles, Riemann, Cantor, and Dr. Mazur makes them all seem as real as the people in your hometown. Every time you meet on one of these characters you discover something new, they all teach something about logic, infinity and reality.
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Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and Math
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