- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416588256
- ISBN-13: 978-1416588252
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math 1st Edition
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At last, a math book for people who think they don't like math. Alex Bellos's self-proclaimed "Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math" delivers on its promise. You'll meet the numerologist who persuaded Puff Daddy to change his name, a Romanian probability theorist who parlayed his know-how into enough lotteries wins to fund an early retirement in the South Pacific, and the nine-year-old Japanese prodigy who can play a speed-game in which two players quickly alternate saying a word that begins with the last word's last syllable while simultaneously summing 30 three-digits numbers--in 20 seconds! You'll learn about tangrams, piems, hyperbolic crochet, nature's ubiquitous "golden ratio," the spooky dogma of the bell curve, why origami is on the bleeding edge of theoretical mathematics, how to make $250,000 in the search for ever-larger prime numbers, and how to gamble just a little bit less badly. We missed this book in 2010's "best of" lists, but it's never too late to have this much fun. --Jason Kirk
From Publishers Weekly
Unlike in a traditional classroom setting, Bellos's book aims to reintroduce readers into the world of math by wandering off the beaten algebraic path and investigating interesting topics. Bellos, a former international newspaper correspondent, jets off to exotic places to talk to people about mathematical concepts that catch his fancy. Readers learn the remarkable story of how Sudoku became an overnight international sensation only after its developer, a retired judge, worked for six years on a computer program to write the puzzles. In Japan he visits a club whose school-age members can almost instantaneously add up a string of three-digit numbers by visualizing an abacus in their heads. When in America, Bellos finds himself in Nevada, exploring Reno's casino scene with a discussion of why some gamblers win, but most don't. Adult math buffs will be familiar with most of Bellos's discoveries, but his enthusiasm and lively writing-along with helpful charts and graphics-should inspire younger readers to make their own journeys of mathematical exploration.
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A relatively quick read, but with excellent depth in what subjects it does examine, Bellos' exploration of key mathematical concepts weaves a story about this often dense subject matter that leaves the reader with several concepts per chapter that they will find themselves repeating to friends later that night. Information about base 10 and 12 systems (and evidence for why base 12 might be the better system), origami, the invention of the modern numerals, the concept of zero, pi, how algebra and geometry finally connected (and why exactly we use "x" so much), probability (while looking at gambling), the golden ratio and non-Euclidean geometry all jump out from the pages thanks to historical stories and Bellos' excellent writing style.
The only drawback is that you get so used to Bellos making math subjects interesting that when you hit the few dryer portions of the book, the text seems to drone a bit. This occurs in two particular parts. At the beginning with the overly discussed Munduruku tribe, and at the end with the discussion of multiple infinities. One might even get a bit bored with the examination of distributions in statistics, but it's still a fascinating concept if you take the time to understand how it has influenced the world.
Mathematics are so important to education, life and the science and technology that influences our lives that it is a shame so many students adopt an attitude of antipathy towards it. Bellos' book, on the other hand, could potentially change that. If freshman math courses offered a marking period on the history of math, it could open up students to a better appreciation for the material. This book does just that.
It's easy to read and follow even if you aren't mathematically gifted. I am a very poor mathematician and I keep up just fine.
This book was a very interesting and fun journey through various parts and types of math that traveled through time and around the globe. I would recommend this highly.