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Here's Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance - An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers Paperback – April 19, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
In the preface the author states, "I have included a fair bit of historical material...". The first chapter makes it seem that the book will be 90% historical background and information ancillary to math, but within a few chapters that is no longer the case.
Even with subjects that will be familiar to most math devotees, he adds many new interesting tidbits, e.g. if you remove all the terms of the harmonic series that contain the digit 9, the formerly infinite-summing series now sums to just under 23. "Remove all terms including ANY number and the thinned-out harmonic series is convergent." if you remove all the terms that contain the string of digits 314159, the series sums, amazingly!, to a little over 2.3 million.
And mixed in with all the interesting math bits, the author constantly adds interesting asides; Peter Roget of thesaurus fame invented the slide rule log-log scale, which enabled the calculation of square roots and fractional powers like 3^2.5.
There are five pages about sudoku puzzles. They discuss the puzzle's background and also its math; the minimum number of clues needed to produce a puzzle with a unique solution seems to be 17, because although a man named Gordon Royle has collected over 50,000 17-clue puzzles, there has never been a 16-clue puzzle and Royle has a gut feeling that none exist.
I could go on and on describing the many things I found extremely interesting in this book, but I'm too lazy to type them all out.Read more ›
The writing and arrangement of the material is masterful - each chapter could stand alone as an essay of the first degree, and stories of travel, interviews, and history are seamlessly woven with surprising revelations about mathematics and humanity. In particular, the chapter on zero should be taught early and often, and the concepts used to illustrate infinity (and the different levels of infinity) made me gape in awe and fear. Sublime.
The one complaint (and a minor one) I have is the way it appeared on my Kindle. Granted, I don't own the large-screen version, but for a text that relies so heavily on numbers, formulae, and specialized symbols, the paragraphs often appeared distorted or cut off. Again, this is my only hang up regarding what is otherwise a classic.
Future reviews may say it, so I'd like to be the first: this book re-introduced me to mathematics and showed me the beauty of what is often a daunting subject. Would that more math teachers at all levels were able to communicate in the way Alex Bellos does. Well done!
Naturally, in a book that is so sweeping in its topics, a given reader may enjoy some chapters more than others; that certainly was my case. However, throughout, the writing style is lively, friendly, accessible, authoritative and quite engaging (depending, of course, on the reader's topics of preference).
I do believe that this book has something for everyone. Those who are math phobic may find clues as to why they are that way, i.e., how their brains may work when they are confronted with a math problem; maths buffs may find fascinating historical information as well current developments in some fields of mathematics that are less known to them. Gamblers may find information that could improve their odds at winning at certain games, or they could learn why they may lose more than they win. Those simply interested in math for its own sake will find plenty here to explore and enjoy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bellos starts with an Amazonian people with few numbers but lots of things to count, and ends with modern number theory having far more numbers than the universe has things to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Arthur Digbee
I'm only about a quarter of the way through this book, but I can tell you it's fascinating, easy to follow and well thought out. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
If I had read this, or something akin to this in high school, I would have had a much deeper appreciation why I should learn mathematics. Read morePublished 8 months ago by STEVEN R MILLER
Highly entertaining book of the popular science/history genre.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
I loved the book, but the Kindle edition is almost unreadable. After talking to Amazon Customer Service I emailed the books author, Alex Bellos, the following:
"I... Read more
A lot of historical background but not much in the way of startling math insight, some glaring typos (e.g. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Stephan Schell