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Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math Hardcover – June 15, 2010
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
But I loved this book!
Part of the appeal of the book is its author. I am convinced that Alex Bellos could make anything interesting. He is a gifted writer, who just happens also to be a gifted mathematician; the perfect left/right-brained combination to make something like this work.
The book is ordered into twelve chapters (numbered 0-11; Chapter Zero is, fittingly, about the concept of zero and how it's invention changed the world). Each chapter can be read individually, which, as Bellos says, means you can skip any chapters that you find boring... but I can pretty much guarantee that won't happen. For a book about numbers, the content is largely narrative, as opposed to being arranged in lists, tables, and other mathematical ways. The author uses his skills as a journalist to track down some remarkable people from all parts of the world, and engages readers in their fascinating stories.
The "World of Math" truly is astonishing. From ancient philosophy and counting monkeys to sudoku puzzles and how to beat the odds in the casino, my mind was consistently blown on every page (but in a good way!) If I start listing individual facts that amazed me, I wouldn't be able to stop, so you're going to just have to read this book for yourself.
You don't have to know advanced math to enjoy this book. Honestly, you probably don't need to know much at all about math, or be particularly good at it. Bellos never assumes too much about his audience. You merely need to love a good story, and be prepared to be thoroughly entertained.
P.S. -- This book has opened my eyes to an entire genre that I never knew existed: "Recreational Math Books". I'll definitely be returning to this well!
The fact that if you get more than 23 people in a room, there is a more than 50% chance that 2 of them will have the same birthday or why Apple had to make the shuffle less random because real random feels like you hear the same songs again and again.
The book is full of wonderful facts. it is written in an easily understandable way and even when there is some concept to look at, you do not have to even think about it, never mind understand it to appreciate the points being made.
Some of the things about shapes, patterns and number sequences and how it affects us are jaw dropping. If you have any sort of puzzle solving yearn in you then there is a lot in this book you will like.
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.