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Group theory in the bedroom and other…

Group theory in the bedroom and other mathematical diversions (2008)

by Brian Hayes

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I am an enthusiastic fan of Brian Hayes' "Computing Science" column in the Sigma Xi publication, American Scientist, which is the source of most of the essays in this book. Before that, I read his articles in The Sciences, a now-defunct but beautiful little magazine once published by the New York Academy of Sciences. Hayes claims not to be a mathematician, but he brings computer tools to bear on problems that use mathematical concepts that are familiar to most students of science. The title essay is the one that is most closely related to the chemistry curriculum. Schemes that guarantee that your mattress will get its lumps evened out when your turn it every few months is an application of group theory that I will use as an example in my quantum chemistry course. Another essay discusses the location of the "continental divide", a topological problem that may have occurred to you if you have ever driven across the country and seen markers for it in places that seem odd or impossible. "Inventing the Genetic Code" looks back at the 1950's, when it was not known how DNA/RNA specifies proteins to be synthesized. Elegant schemes were proposed by Gamov, Feynman, Teller and especially Crick, whose "adaptor hypothesis" is called by Hayes "the prettiest wrong idea in all of twentieth-century science". As it turned out, evolution thought of an even prettier one. ( )
  hcubic | Apr 7, 2013 |
Fun, but it over-promises and under-delivers. ( )
  argyriou | Sep 5, 2011 |
Recommended reading for math majors, especially those with some interest in computing. ( )
  glrad | Mar 15, 2011 |
My reading from essay to essay varied from rapt attention to indifferent skimming. Mathematical writing is not a genre I would ever have thought I would jump on, but a few of Hayes' articles completely captured my interest. For a random, impulse pickup at the library it was quite enjoyable. ( )
  tyroeternal | Jan 7, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809052199, Hardcover)

An Award-Winning Essayist Plies His Craft
Brian Hayes is one of the most accomplished essayists active today--a claim supported not only by his prolific and continuing high-quality output but also by such honors as the National Magazine Award for his commemorative Y2K essay titled "Clock of Ages," published in the November/December 1999 issue of The Sciences magazine. (The also-rans that year included Tom Wolfe, Verlyn Klinkenborg, and Oliver Sacks.) Hayes's work in this genre has also appeared in such anthologies as The Best American Magazine Writing, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Norton Reader. Here he offers us a selection of his most memorable and accessible pieces--including "Clock of Ages"--embellishing them with an overall, scene-setting preface, reconfigured illustrations, and a refreshingly self-critical "Afterthoughts" section appended to each essay.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:43 -0400)

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