...a companion blog to "Math-Frolic," specifically for interviews, book reviews, weekly-linkfests, and longer posts or commentary than usually found at the Math-Frolic site.

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show." ---Bertrand Russell (1907) Rob Gluck

"I have come to believe, though very reluctantly, that it [mathematics] consists of tautologies. I fear that, to a mind of sufficient intellectual power, the whole of mathematics would appear trivial, as trivial as the statement that a four-legged animal is an animal." ---Bertrand Russell (1957)

******************************************************************** Rob Gluck

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Three For Your Consideration

Recently treated myself to a few older books from Amazon, three of which I just want to pass along:

1)  Have mentioned Steven Strogatz's 2009 "The Calculus of Friendship" multiple times in the past (at Math-Frolic). I read a library copy quite some time ago, and always wanted my own hard copy... delighted to now have it. Recommended to teachers, students of all stripes. And if any of you think it's just a simple, sentimental story, NO, it actually includes real math along the way, as only Dr. Strogatz can tell it (but, yes, buy it for the beautiful story, the math is a bonus!). Really, no math-lover should miss it.

2)  Richard Elwes consistently amazes me with his knack for math explication. The book I ordered is his 2013 "Chaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes" (subtitled, "The math that governs our world"), and so far, it is way surpassing my expectations (the title doesn't do it justice!). A splendid diversity of engaging topics made timely. Richard is British, and for reasons I don't fathom, his books often don't get very wide US distribution -- absolutely ashame! One of the best popularizers out there! Come on American distributors.
As we get close to the end of the year, Jordan Ellenberg's "How Not To Be Wrong," thus far remains my top popular math pick for 2014... BUT IF Elwes' book were from this year instead of 2013, it would be in the race for that designation! Another great choice for any young math-lovers on your Christmas list.

3)  Finally, one of my old stand-byes: Renaissance-man and logician-supreme, Raymond Smullyan -- I have enough of his puzzle books, but ever since reading his Taoist-inclined, "The Tao Is Silent" (1977) I've wanted to read more of his output on spirituality. The book I got, "A Spiritual Journey" (2009), is essentially three small books in one: the first part focuses in a general way, on the philosophy of religion, the second part is on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism, and the last part is on Richard Bucke's notion of "Cosmic Consciousness" -- it won't suit everyone's taste, spirituality being such a personal matter, but if you liked Martin Gardner's "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," you will likely enjoy this offering from Raymond, which so closely mirrors my own views and Gardner's (though the writing is a bit stodgier, less smooth and concise than Gardner). No math here either, but Smullyan on ANYthing is worth savoring.

There are of course plenty more recent top-notch 2014 popular math books on the shelves to choose from... but always fun to catch up on things one has missed from the past. Smullyan is now in his mid-90's with the quick, lucid mind of someone half-his-age, Strogatz is 55, and Elwes is the kid on-the-block at 36 -- each very different in style and interests, but each leaving us an outstanding body of work for our enjoyment and elucidation. Thanks guys, you've given me Christmas in October!

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