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Good Math: A Geek's Guide to the Beauty of Numbers, Logic, and Computation (Pragmatic Programmers) [Kindle Edition]

Mark C. Chu-Carroll
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Why do Roman numerals persist? How do we know that some infinities are larger than others? And how can we know for certain a program will ever finish? In this fast-paced tour of modern and not-so-modern math, computer scientist Mark Chu-Carroll explores some of the greatest breakthroughs and disappointments of more than two thousand years of mathematical thought. There is joy and beauty in mathematics, and in more than two dozen essays drawn from his popular “Good Math” blog, you’ll find concepts, proofs, and examples that are often surprising, counterintuitive, or just plain weird.

Mark begins his journey with the basics of numbers, with an entertaining trip through the integers and the natural, rational, irrational, and transcendental numbers. The voyage continues with a look at some of the oddest numbers in mathematics, including zero, the golden ratio, imaginary numbers, Roman numerals, and Egyptian and continuing fractions. After a deep dive into modern logic, including an introduction to linear logic and the logic-savvy Prolog language, the trip concludes with a tour of modern set theory and the advances and paradoxes of modern mechanical computing.

If your high school or college math courses left you grasping for the inner meaning behind the numbers, Mark’s book will both entertain and enlighten you.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mark Chu-Carroll is a PhD computer scientist and professional software engineer. His professional interests include collaborative software development, programming languages and tools, and how to improve the daily lives of software developers. Aside from general geekery and blogging, he plays classical music on the clarinet, traditional Irish music on the wooden flute, and folds elaborate structures out of paper.

Product Details

  • File Size: 893 KB
  • Print Length: 282 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; 1 edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00I8W50SO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,164 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazon reviewers rightfully mention the computational background of this book. Unfortunately, the publishers are giving "canned" general science readership hype and background reviews (possibly to increase the readership base) on the usual pi, golden triangle, zero, i, e, etc. topics that make for pop sci math. This book is FAR BETTER (and a LOT different) than those! Publishers take note: you will sell MORE of this fine text by simply being honest and pointing out how different it really is by bringing in unique computational topics and examples.

Sure, Mark covers a bit of background on historic (and even pop sci) math, and does the usual genuflection to pi, zero, e, i, etc. but then rapidly moves into computational math topics never covered in the pop sci books like group theory, transfinites, the halting problem, and many more, using computer math as both examples and primary chapters in some cases. Even where he covers the i/e/pi topics, he does so with very unique examples, including computation (I'm calling numerical analysis and graph theory computer math so I don't scare away potential readers, because the author DOES NOT write or assume math above high school level. On the other hand, if you are in math, you'll still love many of the building blocks here. I write DSLs for robotics and even with a Masters in applied math thoroughly enjoyed this book).

Highly recommended, ironically FOR anyone with a general interest in very up to date math topics, due to the examples from IT. Knowing about the computer frame of reference can really enhance your enjoyment even as a general math fan, because Chu-Carroll uses examples, humor and very clear explanations even though many of the topics are new, relevant, up to date and unique.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but full of typos & errors September 11, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good book, especially for its right selection of topics that are of great interest for computer scientists -and mathematicians obviously. The only reason I am giving it three stars is because the book contents is *plagued* with typos, errors and formatting inconsistencies. I wish I had written down them as I was reading it.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book covering a lot of ground July 30, 2013
If you're a programmer who has had little exposure to some of the so-called, 'higher' realms of math, this book is written for you. My only real complaint (the reason it does not get five stars), is that it doesn't dive deeply into most of the topics covered, so you're left with just a taste of each. Of course, that's to be expected in a book such as this. If it were thorough, in any sense, it would be at least twice if not ten times as long (or much, much more). Regardless, if you are a software developer, unless you already have a degree in math, you should pick this book up and give it a read. Lots of non-programmers should, as well, of course!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A non-geek point of view September 30, 2013
I am not a mathematician. I am not a programer. I am perhaps less of a geek than I thought. My introduction to the term "set theory" did not occur until after high school nearly 50 years ago; and calculus has remained for me some incomprehensible higher concept, seemingly of no particular use to me. Mr. Chu-Carroll makes the claim in his preface "I've tried to write it so that it's accessible to anyone with a basic highschool background in math." For me, he delivered, albeit with no small effort on my part.

Mr. Chu-Carroll also states that "This isn't a book that you need to read cover-to-cover. Each chapter is mostly stand-alone." Perhaps for those with more recent or advanced experience than mine that is true. I read everything cover-to-cover, it is what I do with books regardless of type; nor do I feel comfortable reviewing something I have not read completely through. For me (see above parameters) that is probably best because the material on set theory went far beyond the level I was exposed to, much less that which I actually remember. That was helpful to me further on in the book, which follows the historical development of math in a rather abridged format (although including several pointers to additional sources for the curious). When I did reach the chapters on calculus, the lights started coming on. Calculus is not a single entity, who knew? Well, probably any semi-serious math student, but not I. "Functional programming languages like Haskell, Scala, and even Lisp are so strongly based in lambda calculus that they're just alternative syntaxes for pure lambda calculus. Lambda calculus is largely the basis for several programing languages." Ah, I have a distant nodding acquaintance with Lisp through my use of AutoCAD, now this is getting interesting.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for the Working Programmer August 11, 2013
I've been reading Mark C. Chu-Carroll's blog "Good Math", Bad Math [...] for a long time. It's often entertaining, but sometimes, especially in the 'Bad Math' takedowns, it's pretty obscure. Significantly, the book is just 'Good Math'. No arcane quibbles, but actually useful stuff.

My primary interest is computer programming, and as a programmer at twitter Mr. Chu-Carroll obviously shares my interest.

I'm particularly pleased wiht Section VI Mechanical Math. Along with other good things it has the clearest explanation the lambda calculus and type theory that I have found anywhere.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Happy talking about math
This book is all about author's his own fantasies about math and numbers.

If you are trying to learn math from a programming side of view you can't do it with this book. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Inanc Gumus
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Funny
I have not yet to complete this book, but the first 5 chapters are any indication I got my money's worth and way more with that. Read more
Published 10 months ago by sremani
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable collection
After following the author's math blog for years, I was glad to see his posts made it into a book. This book is a well-written and consistent set of interesting short essays with a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Matthew B. Doar
4.0 out of 5 stars Numbers Explained
A book about numbers. Doesn't sound too exciting, does it? While it may not be exciting, it is interesting. Read more
Published 13 months ago by John Jacobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!!!
It's a very complete book, from simple to very complex math.
If you are or you want to be a programmer, this book is for you. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Freddy
5.0 out of 5 stars A good guide to the beauty of numbers, logic and computation, not...
I liked the way the author presents each topic. His writing is lucid, and he seems to enjoy teaching as much as he enjoys mathematics. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mike K
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good stuff, some confusing stuff
There are some beautiful ideas in this book (the section on Euler's formula in particular I found to be sublime), but the first few chapters left me scratching my head. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ed Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good math book for Programmers
Good Math is excellent book for software programmers who do not have formal education in Mathematics. Book covers variety of topics. Read more
Published 17 months ago by tjain
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