...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.

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"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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Some Math Book Blurbs



Dang, there are so many popular mathy books already out or forthcoming, feel I better acknowledge some of them before losing track of any.

First, a few books on the horizon, readers ought be aware of:

Ken Ono (and Amir Aczel, now deceased) will shortly be out with My Search For Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count.  Gots-to-be-good!

Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction is due out in the fall. (Big data may have met it's match in Cathy ;-)

Also due in fall, Alfred Posamentier with The Circle: A Mathematical Exploration Beyond the Line

Some books out now that I've glanced at and seem recommendable...
...starting with 3 books all touching on statistics, a really hot topic in popular math-writing these days:

Fluke by Joseph Mazur  (I'm getting a bit jaded by these sorts of books by now, but still a somewhat fun read focusing on coincidences, especially if you haven't read too many volumes in this genre)
The Perfect Bet  by Adam Kucharski (a focus on the probabilities involved in gambling)
The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom by Stephen Stigler (perhaps the driest read of these 3, but also the shortest, and by a renowned statistician)

The Call of the Primes by Owen O'Shea  ...another of the many volumes that cover an array of popular math topics (not just prime numbers); looks fine, but may be redundant if your shelf already has several of these overview-type volumes.

Leonhard Euler: Mathematical Genius in the Enlightenment by Ronald S. Calinger

The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects by Jennifer Beineke and Jason Rosenhouse  ...looks to be an excellent treatment of recreational math, but pricey.

Prime Numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis by
Barry Mazur and William Stein 
(likely to be in running for my favorite book of the year)

Finally, the volume I'm currently most intrigued by, but am only about a third of the way through: Burn Math Class by Jason Wilkes

I love seeing popular math books take risks and go outside-the-box (which few do) -- this book is very different, though it is giving the common call for change in the way math is taught.  Many books claim to present math in some new-ish way that will make it palatable, if not enjoyable, to all those folks fearing/hating it... I rarely see books succeed because math always reduces to symbols, and symbols are what some segment of the population have inherent difficulty with.
So I'm not sure that Wilkes succeeds in his goals here (he too ultimately relies on symbols, but does attempt introducing them in novel ways) -- I'll be interested to see what average folks without much math background say about his effort -- do they "get it," or, simply get lost in the jargon he substitutes for the more customary jargon? I haven't yet seen an extensive review of the book, especially one from a layperson.
Anyway, I give Wilkes a definite "A" (maybe even an "A+") for effort, but withholding judgment for now on the ultimate success of his approach, until I've reached the end.

Anyway, it's only April and we have an amazing selection of math books already available -- I've only mentioned a few of the ones most interesting to my eyes/tastes, but there are many others as well (if you have a favorite I haven't mentioned, feel free to give it a plug).

2016 -- Gonna be another good year for math!


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