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Fantasia Mathematica Paperback – April 1, 1997
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Most of the stories seem to be quick transcriptions of the authors’ imaginative forays into science fiction. Many notable authors are represented here though, in their more playful, impromptu moments. However, a couple of the stories do show a careful literary hand. These latter well-written stories include Aldous Huxley’s classic heartbreak of a narrative titled “Young Archimedes” and Nigel Balchin’s perceptive account that includes insight into some of the subtle abuses seemingly “nice” people can inflict on each other.
A number of the stories here introduce readers to the amazing properties of the Mobius strip, and to its four-dimension counterpart, the Klein bottle. It was from reading this book and from some of George Gamow’s writings that I first acquired my fascination with the Mobius strip back in the 1960’s.
One of these Mobius stories further introduced me to the semi-fictional adventures of Alexander Botts. Stories centering on Botts, the intrepid tractor salesman, appeared in “The Saturday Evening Post” from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. This entry in the series, involving Botts’ ingenious use of the principle of the Mobius strip, is particularly hilarious – and inspired me to get complete books of the Botts’ series.
I was glad to recently revisit this entertaining collection that had launched me along so many further interesting paths.
Sadly, I have lost that copy. When I saw the title for sale at Amazon, I purchased my second copy.
Note that my father, my daughter, and I are considered 'math' people [but not mathematicians]. We are musical. We enjoy Martin Gardner's books and 'recreational math' -- a term that is an oxymoron to many. I hesitate to classify this as a book for 'young readers' since I am enjoying the re-read, and am no longer young. But I do believe that, for the middle-schooler who both reads and is 'good at math', this book hits a sweet-spot.
I look forward to sharing my new copy with two of my grandchildren -- and diving in once more.
A LIFE LEARNING POINT: This book closely tied math with imagination and fantasy--a connection never clearly drawn in my public education. I think, though, that it's very important to present mathematics as the language for interpreting the world that it is...rather than as a cold and mostly irrelevant subject to get C minuses in! IT MADE MATH EXCITING. Yikes, did I say that? It is another way to know why your baseball is going to break the window, how to build a spaceship in your back yard, and how to teleport to Argentina in 0 seconds flat.
A real tangible benefit to reading this book was learning the derivation of Pythagoras' Theorom. Not to sound like an idiot, but I think most of us went through high school geometry having no clue where a2 + b2 = c2 came from. In two pages, this book explained it so clearly to me that I laughed out loud. IF ONLY THEY USED THIS TO TEACH ME INSTEAD OF A BRUTAL MATH BOOK!
This book is worth it in Hard Cover or Paperback. Own it and you too can open up to your closest friends and admit you liked a book about math...