- Hardcover: 276 pages
- Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc (August 30, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393059456
- ISBN-13: 978-0393059458
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Coincidences, Chaos, And All That Math Jazz: Making Light Of Weighty Ideas
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As if they were comedy-club stand-ups, Burger and Starbird employ puns and silly scenarios to tickle those who wouldn't ordinarily pick up a math book. Everyone, however fearful of the topic, uses math in daily life. Two popular fixations with numbers that the authors home in on include the amazing similarities between John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and playing the lottery. Describing the easy math beneath superficially wondrous things, often no more complicated than enumeration and arithmetic, Burger and Starbird dispel the astounding to reveal what a little logical rigor can do, and they use their schtick to keep things light. Avoiding alarming announcements, they never charge headlong into a topic such as the Golden Ratio, but circumscribe it by counting swirls on pineapples and noting the ratio's frequent appearance in nature and in art. Likewise, Burger and Starbird don't bludgeon readers with number theory, geometry, or topology; they take up origami or spin a yarn about a tsetse fly. A profusely illustrated, bemusingly unorthodox introduction to math. Gilbert Taylor
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Informative, intelligent, and refreshingly irreverent. A roller-coaster ride along the frontiers of today's mathematics. I enjoyed it immensely. -- Ian Stewart, author of Flatterland
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I like math, and was a relatively good math student, but I never really understood many of the subtleties underlying advanced mathematical principles; rather, I just memorized them as a chore, and applied them. No more. This book has helped open my eyes to some of the mathematical world's underlying beauty and mystery.
The book ranges widely over numerous subjects, but the ones I found most interesting were the discussions of chaos theory, the aesthetics of the Golden Ratio (and Fibonacci numbers), and the peculiarities and curiosities of topology. Using examples that are deceptively simple, like paper folding ("Origami For The Origamically Challenged"), ancient Greek architecture and the related "Golden Rectangles" ("Their proportions are breathtaking to behold. Such a rectangle is the quintessence of rectangularity, the sine qua non of rectangleosity, the sexiest rectangle ever."), pineapples, and tavern puzzles, Starbird and Burger manage to simultaneously entertain and educate any audience, regardless of previous mathematical proclivities.
The authors have a great sense of fun, clearly love writing, teaching, and entertaining, and they are never above poking fun at themselves, as in this example from a discussion of the topology of knots: "A mathematical knot is simply a closed loop of string that may or may not be knotted. The simplest knot is a loop that contains no knot at all and is called the unknot. (The fact that the math community refers to the unknot as a knot is reason #73 why people tend to avoid socializing with mathematicians.)"
I love this book, and found eminently readable, enjoyable, and educational. As an aside, I have previously watched (and reviewed) Dr. Starbird's "Meaning From Data: Statistics Made Clear" on DVD, and highly endorse that as well. Clearly Starbird and Burger are talented mathematicians, brilliant minds, and great teachers: I wish I had had math teachers like them. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
If you're like me and it's not your thing and you think you're too dumb for this kind of stuff, please pick up this book up. If you're a math genius, please pick this book up
The chapter on chaos theory was the best I read ... made me think so much about how human life and its eventual end can be put into context by studying the chaos theory of math.
Its definitely a good book to have for now and for future generations so they dont grow up fearing math but rather enjoying its magic !
Giving 3 stars because it did not meet expectations.