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on May 30, 2004
This book by Smullyan is different from his other puzzle books,
in that it is fully about puzzles from functional programming.
The birds are functors that compute on strings.
Self reference comes into play when the Mockingbird
shows you what a fixpoint computation is.
The phethora of birds may confuse you if you try to read it
fast or skip solving the puzzles. The problems are not
easy, it took the mighty mathematical titans - Turing and Godel
to provide the initial solutions. If you are stuck,
Smullyan provides all the solutions at the chapter end.
It requires concentration and remembering previous tricks,
something akin to solving Rubik's cube without a solution guide.
You will love it if you love chess problems.
In the end you will come out with a deep sense of
accomplishment having understood the proof of Godel's
incompleteness theorems, Combinatorial Logic, and Functional
programming, when all you thought you were doing was figuring
out puzzles of birds.
Hard to find book, but its worth its weight in gold.
The other book to complement this is "Forever Undecided,
a puzzle guide to Godel" by Smullyan, it uses Modal logic
puzzles to motivate you, but the end result is the same.
Remember Smullyan is Professor of mathematics and logic,
he is classy and witty like Knuth. Don't confuse him
with the popular mathematical journalists.
- Mosh [...]
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on June 22, 2004
After a disconnected array of logic puzzles at the beginning, the author embarks on an introductory course to combinatory logic. Given a little application (if you're like me you will need a pen and paper), you can get to grips with some of the fundamentals of mathematical logic with relatively little background. This is pretty astonishing.
The worst feature of the book is the fact that only one (unintuitive) model for the theory is provided. Discussion of the significance of the results obtained is not particularly useful - probably anyone smart enough to solve the puzzles will not find anything there that they couldn't figure out for themselves.
But nevermind: if you want a good introductory course in combinatory logic (or you want to understand (a version of) Godel's 1st incompleteness theorem), then I would recommend this book for you!
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on May 1, 2014
Ray Smullyan is a logician who is most famous for his many books on puzzles, often of the Knight/Knave variety involving subtle logical reasoning. This is another puzzle book (previously very hard to find, so kudos to Amazon for putting out a Kindle edition), but it's quite different from his other books. Although the first two parts consist of logical puzzles like in his other books, the rest of the book is an exploration of a rather esoteric area of mathematics called combinatory logic (CL). What this book really is is a course in CL taught through puzzles. Some of the puzzles are easy, but many are quite hard, and most of the problems ask you to prove some property of CL, so if writing proofs is not your thing, you probably won't enjoy this book. Smullyan very cleverly disguises his subject by treating combinators (the fundamental object of study in CL) as birds in a forest singing songs to each other (that may sound weird, but trust me, it works). CL has a number of important connections to topics in logic and computer science, and in fact I got to this book because of my interest in functional programming, where ideas from CL crop up quite frequently. Some readers without this background might find the book rather dry and abstract, but I enjoy it greatly. If you are interested in the subject, and/or if you like writing mathematical proofs, you'll probably enjoy this book too. It's also a nice painless way to get into the process of writing mathematical proofs, or to see if this is something you might like. I'm very happy I have this book, because good material on combinatory logic is hard to find, and this book is a fun read. Oh, and being Smullyan, he can't help but lead you to an exploration of Godel's incompleteness theorems by the end of the book, and he touches on many important topics in logic and computation theory along the way. Certainly this must be one of the most unusual and profound puzzle books ever written, but it's not for the faint of heart. If you manage to get through the entire book and solve most of the problems correctly, you should definitely consider a career in mathematics and/or computer science.
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on March 19, 2002
A reviewer of one of Smullyan's other works called him "a national treasure" and I have to agree. To Mock a Mockingbird is a fantastic book -- whether you're looking for fun logic puzzles or a lighter look at formal logic theory. This book is better than any college textbook, and right up there with any of Martin Gardner's best works. Highly recommended.
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on January 2, 2011
Raymond Smullyan is a master of blending wondrous tales of adventure seamlessly with complex topics such as functional, abstract, and symbolic logic, as well as deductive games and exercises. This book is actually one of the best explorations of combinatory logic I have ever encountered. Disguised cleverly by the analogy of birds singing, you will be working through complex mathematical proofs in no time, without even realizing that you're doing it! You'll think it's all just bluebirds and warblers calling to each other!

Combinatory logic is one of the most obscure and fascinating branches of logic I have ever encountered. Its mathematical counterpart (largely the same thing) is known as lambda calculus, and it in fact is used extensively in artificial intelligence and programming language design. The Lisp programming language is actually based on lambda calculus. Learning either combinatory logic or lambda calculus is a venture for only those whose mind is best suited to mathematics, logic, or computer science. If you are someone interested in all three (like myself) then this is the book for you!

Overall, highly recommended for nerdy types, or anyone who likes puzzles.
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on March 24, 1998
Various sets of increasingly sophisticated puzzles & scenarios in a combinatory forest where all the birds are combinators. Great way to understand interesting results from combinatory logic without cumbersome definitions. Mockingbirds are M, which is also YI, Curry bird's response to Identity bird... hilarious.
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on July 17, 2014
I know about R. Smullyan since the publication of his book "Formal Systems" which I read in the seventies and which is a jewel in the subject. To Mock a Mockingbird is the best introduction to combinatory logic I know and moreover a phantastic introduction to functionnal programming as well. Given the importance of functional programming in such software as the Coq proof assistant (this is the software in which Georges Gonthier and Benjamin Werner formally proved the four color problem, and the language of this assistant, Gallina is a typed functional programming language), combinatory logic is gaining in importance itself. Smullyan with this book opens a door to a true and deep understanding of what is going on, and moreover, in quite entertaining manner!
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on May 28, 2014
Some of the puzzles can be very difficult and frustrating, and a few are almost trivial. But most of it is great. If you work through the entire book, you will learn Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, the Fixed Point Principle, and how just a few simple combinators form a complete basis for performing arithmetic, logic, and computation in general.
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on September 1, 2013
The first section of book is similar to many of his other puzzle books, with plenty of knights and knaves puzzles, meta puzzles, and more. But it is the second half of the book that is the focus, and it is absolutely brilliant.

The puzzles based on combinatorial logic continue to build on top of each other until Smullyan yet again demonstrates Godel's Incompleteness theorems.

Both fun and instructional.
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on January 5, 2015
Very good book if you're into math / logic puzzles. The author; Ray Smullyan Ph.D is my favorite when it comes to retrograde math logic puzzles.
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