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Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities (2009)

by Ian Stewart

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
there's no end of science/history/philosophy/[insert academic subject here] books that breathes life into these otherwise tedious fields of knowledge, essentially bringing them closer to the general populace by highlighting their more interesting facets. on the other hand, there seem to be a shortage of such books for maths...one that will not only make maths curious, but also enjoyable (albeit it took me nearly 6 months to finish enjoying this short book).

professor stewart's cabinet of mathematical curiosities accomplishes that for me. it makes maths wonderful, more like puzzles with solutions that fit so nicely they make you smile even if you had to cheat and see the answer at the end of the book after pondering the problem yourself for all of 5 minutes, and less than the most hated and feared subject back in high school (and beyond). it is also littered with math-themed tidbits one would most likely never have the opportunity (or reason) to look up even during the most lethargic days (A Game Of Life, anyone? ).

now i've finally put paid on this book, i have of course forgotten 98.2% of what it was all about, or what it talked about for 250 pages...but i still have that lingering 'smart' feeling one gets after reading a book with 'math' in the title. ( )
  riida | Apr 27, 2013 |
A mixture of the history of different branches of mathematics and maths puzzles ranging from the easy to "if you can prove this you can win a million dollar prize for being the first!"
  stevejwales | Apr 26, 2013 |
Unfortunately this book tries to be a lot of things and fails, unlike many other excellent books by Prof. Stewart. If you want to read good and inspiring biographies of mathematicians there are very good books focused on that topic, if you are into recreational mathematics then you can easily consult excellent volumes e.g. the ones from Martin Gardner and if you want to read mathematical jokes... well, I'm sure you don't need a book for that (do you?). The level of topics discussed vary wildly, from high school algebra to university-level calculus and complex analysis. Even the author himself admits in some pages that the current topic is too technical to describe in a few sentences, so why start to talk about it in the first place? I do not regret having bought and read this book even though I came very close to thinking so. ( )
  EmreSevinc | Feb 2, 2011 |
This book includes a random hodge-podge of different articles from a few lines to a few pages, all connected by some link (occasionally a little tenuous) with mathematics. There are mainly wordy logic-type puzzles, as you'd find in a puzzle book (for instance, how do you ferry 3 couples across a river with one boat, without leaving any woman with an unmarried man), and some jokes, but there are also interesting titbits, anecdotes and some more weighty articles on central mathematical themes. In some ways this is the ideal toilet book (meant as a compliment!), because so many of the articles are bitesize and unconnected with the others, but keep you entertained for a few head-scratching minutes.

What this book does very well is whet the appetite of someone afraid of, or new to mathematics outside of school lessons. But if you've read Ian Stewarts other books before, you might find quite a few passages or topics sound rather familiar. And the very unstructured nature of the book doesn't make for satisfying reading for anyone wanting an overview of maths, or seeking the central themes in the field. I also found, on occasion, the articles unsatisfying because the puzzles were infuriating, or the explanations had to go into maths way beyond a layperson's viewpoint.

On the whole, though, it was fun, light, entertaining stuff, and I'm looking forward to the sequel, which will be a welcome sight whenever I go to the loo! ( )
  RachDan | Apr 3, 2010 |
Great fun.

Silly, serious and everything in between to do with Maths. Dip into it or, if you are sad like me, read it cover to cover.

No maths ability required. ( )
  psiloiordinary | Nov 10, 2009 |
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A collection of intriguing mathematical games, puzzles, stories, and factoids that reveal hidden gems of logic, geometry, and probability.

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