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ISBN-13: 978-0691148229
ISBN-10: 0691148228
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Nonplussed! is a collection of lovely paradoxes: facts that are provable logically but are nevertheless seriously counterintuitive...It is an exciting book. It should be in every...college library. It would even be the right gift for mathematicians and anyone who uses mathematics--economists, business analysts and many others--and indeed for anyone who would claim to be educated."--Peter M. Neumann, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is a splendid collection of articles, inspired by Martin Gardner's writings. Old conundrums are given new twists and applications, newer perplexing ideas are described with panache. The forthcoming companion book has a high standard to maintain."--John Haigh, London Mathematical Society Newsletter

"It is therefore recommended that Julian Havil's headmaster award him further sabbatical leave for the purpose of producing a sequel to this welcome addition to the mathematical literature."--Peter Ruane, MAA Review

"A review of a book as good as this must either repeat the positive adjectives other reviewers have used, or require a very large thesaurus. Since I find myself in complete agreement with all of the following words from other reviews, I will repeat them immediately: marvelous, crystal-clear, great, amazing, stimulating, delightful, fascinating, strong, surprising, classic, interesting, eclectic, insightful, magnificent. That one book could encourage such gushing praise seems as unlikely as one book being able to cram in a great variety and depth of mathematical problems, colourful historical anecdotes, significant nods to ethno-mathematics, difficult but well-explained proofs, clear and engaging prose and beautiful diagrams. Yet Havil's book succeeds on all accounts...The brilliant writing, the wonderful problems, the weaving together of past and future, games and discovery, and world number cultures will have you returning to this ageless book time and again."--Phil Wilson, Plus Magazine

"This fascinating expedition by Havil through some engaging and often surprising mathematical and statistical oddities is more demanding than the usual 'popular math book' it is billed...All topics are covered by an always carefully crafted mathematical exposition, not leaving out necessary preliminaries and providing rigorous proofs."--J. Mayer, Choice

"Even many high school students without a calculus background will benefit from the problems contained in the book. . . . The book contains a little algebra, some geometry, and a great deal of probability. It could serve as recreational reading for teachers as well as for student use in a probability course or courses following algebra 2. Mathematics clubs and teams would also find Nonplussed! useful."--Paul Kelley, Mathematics Teacher

"This is a fun book containing many diverse problems that I had not seen before but it also stimulates some genuinely interesting mathematical thought. Above all, this book highlights the 'frailty of the intuition we routinely use to guide us through our everyday lives' and that, in my mind, is no bad thing."--Nathan Green, Mathematics Today

"I recommend the book to everyone interested in entertaining mathematics."--Christina Birkenhake, Mathematical Intelligencer

"This book discusses such problems in a generally accessible way, but it does not shy away from using rigorous mathematical arguments to explain them. . . . Some of these topics are quite familiar, but even so I found the discussions clear and often learned some new and quite surprising tidbits."--Stan Wagon, Mathematical Reviews

"Those that spend their working lives avoiding mathematics by approaching their problems in all sorts of different ways will benefit from looking at this text, even if it involves following through but one single problem and its mathematical solution."--C.J.H. Mann, Kybernetes

"The book is perfect for independent or group study for students in advanced high school mathematics classes or university-level undergraduate mathematics classes. Selected chapters are suitable for discussion during professional development sessions aimed at engaging mathematics teachers in rigorous mathematics investigations and discussions."--Anne Papakonstantinou, Mathematics Teacher

"This lovely book will attract the attention of readers who are interested in recreational mathematics like mathematical puzzles and paradoxes."--Yuri V. Rogovchenko, Zentralblatt MATH

"Havil has an excellent mix of an interesting history of each topic and clear and lucid solutions to the problems. . . . Havil's strength is the historical background he gives to each topic and his style of writing which is so easy to read. . . . An interesting and challenging book well worth reading."--John Sykes, Mathematics in School

From the Back Cover

"Nonplussed!, as the title suggests, is a marvelous study of some two dozen choice mathematical problems that boggle the mind. Unlike so many books on recreational math, Havil doesn't hesitate to give crystal-clear proofs and their necessary equations. John Conway's great checker-jumping puzzle is here, along with amazing nontransitive betting paradoxes and other confounding results almost impossible to believe. No one interested in recreational mathematics on an intermediate advanced level should pass up this stimulating, delightful volume."--Martin Gardner

"In Nonplussed!, his new book of fascinating discussions of mathematical questions, Julian Havil's literary signature is evident even without seeing his name on the cover. The presentation always displays his strong ability to weave together the historical with what is often a surprising mathematical twist, even for those problems that have been around long enough to be called classic. Nonplussed! will be a classic, too."--Paul J. Nahin, author of Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula

"Nonplussed!! is a very interesting and eclectic mix of paradoxes that has the potential to be a very useful and lasting contribution to popular mathematics."--Christopher J. Sangwin, author of Mathematics Galore

"I greatly enjoyed this book and I imagine that anyone who liked high school math will too. Nonplussed! certainly succeeds in surprising-and in giving insightful proofs of the mathematical results discussed. It is a magnificent demonstration of how far even rather straightforward mathematics can take you. And by describing many of the historical characters involved and the problems that motivated them, it makes mathematics seem like an adventure."--Nick Huggett, author of Space from Zeno to Einstein

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148229
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,081,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Finally I have decided to 'get a web page' and, thanks to Amazon,the procedure is very easy. I will try to add to it as time passes. Apparently, in profile I resemble Vladimir Putin; hence the choice of the lead photo!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robert Pelini on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will delight readers who like to get their hands into their math. Havil sticks to mostly elementary concepts, avoiding highly abstract fields that would lose most readers. When a subject could go too far afield, Havil warns about it and presents only the part the reader needs to know, citing original source references for the interested reader. He gives complete, understandable proofs of some startling statements--proofs that leave you understanding exactly how you got there. The great thing is that you can choose to work through these problems for yourself, verifying each step, or you can just follow along with his proofs and take on faith any simple algebraic rearrangements that he may have skipped over. Compared to Havil's earlier classic on Euler's Gamma Function, this one's a bit easier to read, with numerous short sections on a variety of topics.

One minor complaint is that I found some typesetting errors. One, ironically, occurs on page 49 where he uses the notation "!n" (the number of derangements of n objects) when actually he meant "n!" (the number of permutations of n objects). It's ironic because only two paragraphs later Havil warns that !n can be easily confused with n!, whereupon he adopts a new notation for !n. In the delightfully bizarre but challenging chapter on John Conway's Fractran, there are a few typos that might confuse that minority of readers who will actually try to go line-by-line through the explanation of the Fractran machine (p. 172), but if you're one of those people, discovering the errors will anyway prove your mastery.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By O. De Vries on May 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The book of Julian Havil is certainly not easy reading. Perhaps I am a dummy, but at several pages I had to read over a paragraph several times before understanding its real meaning, but the result was always worth the trouble. The calculations itself are explained thoroughly and his way of highlighting different sidesteps are often eye-openers.

People loving Martin Gardner's articles in Scientific American, will certainly appreciate this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary Sawyer on June 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
This was a good read, although the writing style could have been more precise at times. The choice of
topics was varied, and most of the chapters presented interesting topics, especially the Banach-Tarski paradox.
Through no fault of the author, several of the topics would not be very accessible to those without fairly extensive
math backgrounds. There were a couple of blatant errors of fact, which I cannot fathom not being caught by even a cursory proofreading. For example, in Chapter 7, he states, "if Q [the rationals] is countable and R [the reals]not so, then what has been added - the transcendental numbers - must not be countable." What you add to the rationals to get the set of real numbers is the irrational numbers (of which the transcendental numbers are but a subset). For a mathematical piece, even a light exposition, that was sloppy - and inaccurate. Picky? Perhaps, but there were a couple of those, and frankly, in a math book, even popular interest, that is inexcusable.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Livingston on September 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Impossibles first and really enjoyed it a lot. This was also enjoyable, but I found myself skimming over the proofs much of the time. I did not do that with Impossibles (but I don't remember there being as much). The problems discussed were ineresting, but I did not find myself telling my other geek friends about very many.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert P. Heaney on August 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Reproduction of the equations was so poor as to be difficult to read or follow them - at least in the version I purchased. I imagine they were reproduced as figures, rather than as type, which seems a serious mistake for a book of this sort.
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