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Mathematics, Magic and Mystery (Dover Recreational Math) Paperback – June 1, 1956

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Why do card tricks work? How can magicians do astonishing feats of mathematics mentally? Why do stage "mind-reading" tricks work? As a rule, we simply accept these tricks and "magic" without recognizing that they are really demonstrations of strict laws based on probability, sets, number theory, topology, and other branches of mathematics.
This is the first book-length study of this fascinating branch of recreational mathematics. Written by one of the foremost experts on mathematical magic, it employs considerable historical data to summarize all previous work in this field. It is also a creative examination of laws and their exemplification, with scores of new tricks, insights, and demonstrations. Dozens of topological tricks are explained, and dozens of manipulation tricks are aligned with mathematical law.
Nontechnical, detailed, and clear, this volume contains 115 sections discussing tricks with cards, dice, coins, etc.; topological tricks with handkerchiefs, cards, etc.; geometrical vanishing effects; demonstrations with pure numbers; and dozens of other topics. You will learn how a Moebius strip works and how a Curry square can "prove" that the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts.
No skill at sleight of hand is needed to perform the more than 500 tricks described because mathematics guarantees their success. Detailed examination of laws and their application permits you to create your own problems and effects.

About the Author

Martin Gardner was a renowned author who published over 70 books on subjects from science and math to poetry and religion. He also had a lifelong passion for magic tricks and puzzles. Well known for his mathematical games column in Scientific American and his "Trick of the Month" in Physics Teacher magazine, Gardner attracted a loyal following with his intelligence, wit, and imagination.

Martin Gardner: A Remembrance
The worldwide mathematical community was saddened by the death of Martin Gardner on May 22, 2010. Martin was 95 years old when he died, and had written 70 or 80 books during his long lifetime as an author. Martin's first Dover books were published in 1956 and 1957: Mathematics, Magic and Mystery, one of the first popular books on the intellectual excitement of mathematics to reach a wide audience, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, certainly one of the first popular books to cast a devastatingly skeptical eye on the claims of pseudoscience and the many guises in which the modern world has given rise to it. Both of these pioneering books are still in print with Dover today along with more than a dozen other titles of Martin's books. They run the gamut from his elementary Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing, which has been enjoyed by generations of younger readers since the 1980s, to the more demanding The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings, which Dover published in its final revised form in 2005.

To those of us who have been associated with Dover for a long time, however, Martin was more than an author, albeit a remarkably popular and successful one. As a member of the small group of long-time advisors and consultants, which included NYU's Morris Kline in mathematics, Harvard's I. Bernard Cohen in the history of science, and MIT's J. P. Den Hartog in engineering, Martin's advice and editorial suggestions in the formative 1950s helped to define the Dover publishing program and give it the point of view which — despite many changes, new directions, and the consequences of evolution — continues to be operative today.

In the Author's Own Words:
"Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs."

"A surprising proportion of mathematicians are accomplished musicians. Is it because music and mathematics share patterns that are beautiful?" — Martin Gardner


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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Recreational Math
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; First edition (June 1, 1956)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486203352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486203355
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For 25 of his 95 years, Martin Gardner wrote 'Mathematical Games and Recreations', a monthly column for Scientific American magazine. These columns have inspired hundreds of thousands of readers to delve more deeply into the large world of mathematics. He has also made significant contributions to magic, philosophy, debunking pseudoscience, and children's literature. He has produced more than 60 books, including many best sellers, most of which are still in print. His Annotated Alice has sold more than a million copies. He continues to write a regular column for the Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is very nice. It teaches you how to do magic with any houshold items. There are 2 chapters with cards too. NONE of the tricks described here use any sort of slight of hand. It is 100% mathematical tricks than ANYONE can do. And they are all nice cloe-up tricks which are the type of tricks which are most baffling. Martin Garder, the author of this book is a very talented writer. He wrote many books on mathematics and science. This is a great book and I recomend EVERYONE should get it even if they are not into magic that much.
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Format: Paperback
The reason why we use the phrases "magic trick" and "card trick" is because we know that there is no such thing as magic. The magician is executing a very specific algorithm that leads from the starting point to the desired conclusion. In this book, Gardner explains some of the algorithms in areas such as card tricks, mental magic and other common feats of legerdemain.
The titles of the chapters are:

*) Tricks with cards part I
*) Tricks with cards part II
*) From Gergonne to Gargantua - more tricks with cards
*) Magic with common objects - the objects are items such as dice and dominoes
*) Topological tomfoolery - tricks with items such as ropes, handkerchiefs and vests
*) Tricks with special equipment
*) Geometrical vanishes part I
*) Geometrical vanishes part II
*) Magic with pure numbers - rapid computation or number guessing tricks

Some people don't want to know how things are done because it spoils the fun for them. Since Gardner explains all of the tricks in complete detail, if you read this book then you will know how to do them yourself. Therefore, you should only pick it up if you can handle the knowledge of how these tricks are performed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Martin Jeff l Martin on December 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a lot of information, well presented, in a compact source. As a pro magician & an educational assembly performer, I can use this as a quick source for material to use in my shows.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Torrence on February 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're new to Gardner's mathematical writing, this is a great place to start. The theme for Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 is taken from this book (visit to see the result), and fun as that site is to explore this book really has it all. Gardner has a clear, inviting style that is disarming in its directness. Yet he takes you almost immediately to strange and wonderful places that truly show off the beauty of abstract mathematical ideas. What a ride. I've had a ball rediscovering this classic book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rachlu91 on January 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 12 year old who loves math and science cannot get enough of these books. I highly recommend this author.
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