...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

Monday, April 17, 2017

"The Calculus of Happiness"





Oscar Fernandez’s slim “The Calculus of Happiness” is a somewhat quirky popular math entry focusing on using math (very little calculus involved) as an aid to one’s health, wealth, and love life. No doubt some will find the book entertaining and enlightening depending on your interest in these 3 topic areas. And it’s nice to see a book devoted to showing the public how basic math applies directly to common areas of the public’s interest.

Part 1 deals with diet/eating/nutrition. Of course entire (and large) tomes have been written on these topics that Fernandez is devoting less than 40 pages to. Still, Fernandez distills much helpful, practical info into a small space, touching on several different subjects. 
In a similar way, I think the last (3rd) part on dating and relationships is a succinct, entertaining treatment, reducing some human complexity to algorithms and modeling.
Part 2 of the book, on the mathematics of financial matters was the one of most interest to me. The interesting take-home argument of the second part is that, overall, a portfolio of investments split about 50/50 between stocks and bonds is best for the long haul. That’s a more conservative approach than most argue in favor of, but Fernandez makes a strong case that if you’re not interested in trading or following your investments closely, than such a buy-and-hold approach with 50% stocks/bonds makes sense (it’s essentially a sort of turtle versus hare approach; sacrificing some gains in the best years to guard against major losses in the bad years, and sleep better at night!).
Each chapter of the book (there are 2 chapters to each Part) ends with a helpful little summary of the main mathematical and non-mathematical take-home points from the chapter, as well as some 'bonus practical tips.'

Your interest in this book will be largely determined by your interest in the 3 subject areas… on the one hand these are three areas that are already well-covered elsewhere to the point of overkill… on the other hand, they are covered so much, specifically because they are areas of continuing interest to so many people.
At less than 150 pages the volume is a quick read, and the Parts need not be read in the order given if your inclination is otherwise.
There are also 6 Appendices which flesh out more of the math that is touched on in the body of the book.

MAA review of the volume is here:

...and the author is interviewed at the Publisher's page here:
http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2017/03/22/oscar-e-fernandez-on-the-calculus-of-happiness/



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