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Wonders of Numbers: Adventures in Math, Mind, and Meaning 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195133424
ISBN-10: 0195133420
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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

Who are the eight most influential female mathematicians? Why aren't Roman numerals used anymore? Why was the first woman mathematician brutally murdered? What were the Unabomber's ten most mathematical technical papers?

Prepare yourself for a shattering odyssey as Wonders of Numbers unlocks the doors of your imagination. The thought-provoking mysteries, puzzles, and problems range from the most beautiful formula of Ramanujan (India's most famous mathematician) to the Leviathan number, a number so big that it makes a trillion pale in comparison. The mysterious puzzles and games should cause even the most left-brained readers to fall in love with numbers. The quirky and exclusive surveys on mathematicians' lives, scandals, and passions will entertain people at all levels of mathematical sophistication.

Grab a pencil. Relax. Then take off on a mind-boggling journey to the ultimate frontier of math, mind, and meaning, as Dr. Clifford Pickover and legendary, eccentric mathematician Dr. Francis Googol explore some of the oddest and quirkiest highways and byways of the numerically obsessed. With numerous illustrations and appendices pointing to computer explorations, this is an original, fun-filled, and thoroughly unique introduction to numbers and their role in creativity, computers, games, practical research, and absurd adventures that teeter on the edge of logic and insanity.

From the Inside Flap

"The prolific Clifford Pickover has written another marvelous book. Through conversations between whimsical Dr. Googol and his pupil Monica, you can test your wits on an incredible variety of unusual mathematical puzzles and games. Along the way there are fascinating historical facts and math gossip to enjoy. You can't help absorbing a great deal of important math as you pick your way through Pickover's delightful pick of fresh, little-known gems of recreational mathematics."
-- Martin Gardner

"Pickover dazzles us once more with his book Wonders of Numbers. This big book of mathematical ideas provides hours, days, months if not years of entertaining numbers, puzzles, problems and novelties to explore. The book runs the gamut with such things as X-File numbers, Mozart numbers, Katydid sequences, and on and on. There's something for everyone's interest."

-- Theoni Pappas, author of The Joy of Mathematics


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (December 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195133420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195133424
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Now here is a fine weekend escape - a delightful book to be read with one's feet up and an ice cold beverage all the while contemplating the wonders of numbers. Mostly about the integers, there are such mathematical adventures as 2, 3, and 4 dimensional magic squares, numbers so huge they require special notation and easily dwarf the number of atoms in the known universe, fractal number sequences, Mozart numbers, and lots of other fun things in the 125 chapters. My favorite numbers are the Schizophrenic numbers (Chapter 93) which when evaluated to 500 digits reveal patterns of seemingly random digits alternating with chains of repetitions of identical digits. The book is especially entertaining for the connections shown between some of these numbers and music, art, science, and other areas of mathematics.
For additional enjoyment the Further Exploring section offers additional background including references to books and web sites and also some challenges to readers - a few of which even include a cash prize. And, best of all Wonders of Numbers is written in plain English and accompanied by splendid graphics, lively anecdotes, and a generous supply of epigraphs. A fun way to while away a weekend.
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Format: Hardcover
Pickover fans will buy and enjoy this book - his 26th by my rough count.
But if you aren't a fan, if you've tasted and returned to the kitchen previous titles by Mr. Pickover, you might still enjoy this fascinating buffet.
And those are 5 hard-earned stars in my rating! I was well past starting to think that the best parts of Pickover's books were the always-intriguing titles. I had started a number of these in the past, but usually ended up skimming or setting them aside. None that I have read would have earned more than 3 stars. Until now!
"Wonders of Numbers" is, somehow, different. It still has some of his quirky lists ("The Unabomber's 10 Most Mathematical Technical Papers", "A Ranking of the 5 Strangest Mathematicians Who Ever Lived"). It still has the intriguing titles - each of 125 "chapters" carries one, ranging from "The Pipes of Papua" to "Anchovy Marriage Test". The pieces still seem to jump all over the place. Most of these things didn't grab me in past Pickover titles. Here, they all fit together and work nicely.
Oddly enough, I think the appeal of this volume might be its eclecticism. Pickover is not trying to create a whole story as he has in some earlier books ("Time: A Traveler's Guide", "Surfing through Hyperspace"). The unifying center of this book is, simply, mathematics and the myriad ways it exposes its wonders to us. I'm guessing that the reason I haven't put this one down is my own fascination with mathematics itself. The broader the scope the better - and none takes a wider view than Clifford Pickover. The book has something for everyone - but it will also draw you in to other pieces you thought you weren't interested in. Martin Gardner meets Conway & Guy ! A nice combo.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pickover's latest book is wonderful! I specialise in teaching very able mathematics students and have used Clifford A. Pickover's books and web site with great success. The students really respond to his sense of humour.
Wonders of Numbers is exactly the sort of material which stimulates the bright kids (and their teachers!), and gets them thinking in depth long after the class has finished. It takes them beyond the idea of just "getting sums right" to the concept that mathematics is a glorious plaything.
Many of the chapters include computer related themes (fractals, programming) so students can see that mathematics is an evolving subject, not something which was all discovered long ago.
The constant inclusion of interesting people, the humour in the writing, the validity of the topics mathematically, the strange sidelines and the general sense of fun, ensures I have another gem to extend the students beyond the regular curriculum. The chapters are just the right size to initiate a topic and motivate the students to pursue it. It is lovely to have material to use which doesn't just lead to a correct answer and end to the problem, but leads them to take it further and further.
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Format: Paperback
An amazing amalgam of mathematical treats! Each chapter is super short. Fun for readers of wide abilities. Here are some of my favorite topics: Ackermann's function, Maria Agnesi, Alien snow, Amicable numbers, Apocalyptic numbers, Audioactive decay, Bible code, Catalan numbers, Cellular automata, Doughnut loops, Paul Erdos, Fractals, Sophie Germain, Goldbach Conjecture, Hexamorphic numbers, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Palindromes, Roger Penrose, Poincare Conjecture, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Scandals, Self-similarity, Transcendentals, ... and more.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. There's a tremendous number of interesting questions raised, many of them currently unanswered. Not a huge amount of depth on any particular question but each chapter has it's own "alter ego" at the back in the "further investigations" part of the book with answers (when they're known) and resources to take off on your own. The book actually becomes most interesting when you're not reading it - when you've set it aside and started thinking about the interesting ideas on your own. Most of these problems are simple enough to comprehend that you can immediately start making new little discoveries on your own if you're even a little mathematical. Very "Martin Gardner"ish in that sense, and in my book there's no higher compliment to pay to a book than to compare it to Gardner's classics. So if you have a mathematical bone in your body and you want to exercise it this is a great book to use as a springboard into really interesting and big ideas.
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