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Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician's Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More Hardcover – December 2, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up—For readers who haven't balked at Stephen Hawkings's A Brief History of Time (Bantam, 1988) or Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber's The Quantum Moment (Norton, 2014), this sustained ramble through the thickets of mathematics offers similarly lucid but challenging insights into our universe's deeper patterns and principles. Building not on a chronological but a conceptual framework outlined in the opening chapter, "Zeroth Chapter," the author explores the historical evolution of mathematical tools, conjectures, and concepts from numbers and geometrical shapes to primes, knots, algorithms, multiple dimensions, computers from the Antikythera Mechanism on, probability, "ridiculous" (i.e., negative, transcendental, surreal, and the like) numbers, and infinities of diverse flavor. He adds lots of small diagrams and photos to illustrate his topics, but appends no index or, aside from follow-up comments on scattered posers, back matter. A stand-up comedian as well as a trained mathematician, Parker lightens the intellectual load considerably with zingers ("That's the problem with binary jokes: they either work or they don't") and everyday examples from bar bets to dating algorithms. Still, even confirmed math geeks will find this pleasurable but not casual reading.—John Peters, Children's Literature Consultant, New York City

Review

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension shows off math at its most playful and multifarious, ranging from classics like knot theory and ruler-and-compass constructions to more whimsical topics like the topology of beer logos and error-correcting scarves.” ―Jordan Ellenberg, author of How to Not Be Wrong

“Matt Parker is some sort of unholy fusion of a prankster, wizard and brilliant nerd--maths is rarely this clever, funny and ever so slightly naughty.” ―Adam Rutherford, author of Creation

“This is the best book on recreational mathematics since Martin Gardner's My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles.” ―Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First American Edition edition (December 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374275653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374275655
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By GWT on February 11, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A truly nice book. Although it is aimed at your everyday reader, and I have a math degree, I still found things I didn't know, and was kept amused and interested the entire time. My own interest in math started when a teacher talked me into reading Martin Gardner's classic "Math and the Imagination", so I bought this book , hoping to find things to interest my grandson in math. It served this purpose well, but also served to inspire me to buy several texts on graph and number theory in an effort to renew old acquaintances.
In summary, a good read--well worth the time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating book. Of course, I can't understand the algorithms, but I enjoy Matt Parker's humorous way of making math interesting and showing showing practical uses for it, such as how to prevent tangles in string, wires and headphones; how to hang a picture so it won't fall off the wall . . . or if it does, how to make sure it falls to the floor gently. How to cut a pizza or to cut cakes of different shapes so everyone gets their fair share of icing. How to tie your shoelaces the "Math" (and quickest) way.
I'm giving this book to my grandchildren of various ages, hoping it will inspire them to love math--or at least respect it and understand how important it is in the smallest and largest aspects of the universe. If any of my grandchildren decide to become teachers, I hope they will engage their students by making their time in the classroom exciting and relevant to their everyday lives.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am reviewing on behalf of my computer science-math-physics geek 16 year old son. I keep encouraging him to go to bed, get some sleep, and I keep finding him under the covers with a flashlight reading this book. What gives him away? The gasping in wonderment as he reads on way past bedtime, completely enthralled and held in the powers of this comedic mathematician. Parental benefit: he tells me over breakfast the new mathematical amazement that filled his mind with effervescent bubbles of geeky enthusiasm. Well, if my kiddo has to have a bad habit that keeps him up late at night, this book is a pretty good bad habit!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is really well developed. It is an easy read (for the most part) and acts as a perfect springboard for anyone looking to get interested in a specific subject of mathematics. The author's tone is very conversational and the language is not built up to make the book understandable to only those who are deeply invested in mathematics. Some chapters for me were more tough to get through than others but overall the book is an exemplary work of what math should be: an intellectual interest, not a dreaded class. Having completed this book I hope to see more material from Matt Parker in the future.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this for my little brother the math genius (really). He started leafing through it and said, hey this talks about so and so's disproving of (whatever the word is, I think it means it can't get bigger). I tried to look suitably impressed instead of baffled. In any case, he was very happy with it.
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Format: Paperback
Matt Parker is a comedian who does stand-up math. Or he is a mathematician doing stand-up comedy…I forget which lifestyle definition attracted me to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/standupmaths" rel="nofollow">his routines on YouTube</a>: some are complicated enough to make you forget to laugh…unless, that is, you are already in on the math basics he is sharing. I learned about Parker’s new book <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1147816247?utm_medium=api&utm_source=rss">from the mathematician Ben Babcock</a>, whose website reviews recently-published science fiction, among other things. I was impressed with his assessment that “this is DIY math at its finest”-- impressed enough, after looking at it myself, to buy copies for my teenaged nephews.

Besides that, in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5-pgBnGyzw" rel="nofollow">the YouTube clip</a> I saw, Parker is wearing maths paraphernalia like a “smooth geometric t-shirt” sold by <a href="http://www.designbyhumans.com/shop/baseball-tee/segments/31469/" rel="nofollow">DESIGNBYHÜMANS</a> that is über-cool for mathheads. I like to encourage thinking and innovation of any kind.

Parker doesn’t neglect important relevant applications of mathematics: how to cut a pizza equally with crust or without, how best to keep your headphone wires from tangling, how to tie your shoes (!) the maths way…in other words, ways to learn and test math principles using everyday objects…or your classroom full of students. It actually <em>does</em> sound fun, which I guess is the point. Babcock, who I mention above, makes it clear that one really understands maths by <em>doing</em> math, which is perhaps even more to the point.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book.
The author views math disciplines as games. Mathematicians set up the rules and use their minds to see what happens. Next the author collides math with our lives. He examines the resulting interactions. He definitely leans toward the fun in life.
Because if this book, I tie my shoes differently. I made a geeky Valentine Day present for my wife that she liked. I visualize 3D shadows of 4D objects. The list goes on and on.
Buy this book if you enjoy recreational mathematics, if you are comfortable getting your geek on, or were a fan of Martin Gardner.
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