Math Popularisations...

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Math Popularisations...

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1Jesse_wiedinmyer
Jul 9, 2007, 5:46am

I'm guessing I might be undershooting my audience, here, but was wondering if anyone has any favorite maths popularisations?

2scottja
Jul 9, 2007, 8:30am

Well, you can't undershoot me! I guess it depends just how popularized you're talking, though. Rudy Rucker's math books are pretty good (especially Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension), as are Eli Maor's. There's always Flatland, of course. And Godel, Escher, Bach is a personal favorite.

3VisibleGhost
Jul 9, 2007, 8:39am

It doesn't take long for me to get in over my head in math but here's an old one and a new one.

Men of Mathematics by E. T. Bell which came out in the 1930s I think. Evolutionay Dynamics by Martin Nowak is one I started and skimmed through I'm not sure I understand it completly. It is an interesting book though that I'll keep at.

4KromesTomes
Jul 9, 2007, 9:20am

I'm not a mathematician myself, but I thought Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos was quite good.

5Jesse_wiedinmyer
Jul 9, 2007, 12:55pm

I've always enjoyed Paulos. In a similar vein, you've got Ian Stewart. He wrote one of the follow-ups of Flatland that often appear, called Flatterland: Like Flatland Only More So.

I also hear that Martin Gardner is supposed to do a pretty good job.

6scottja
Jul 9, 2007, 2:22pm

#5: Yes, Gardner is very good, especially for recreational math.

7daschaich
Jul 9, 2007, 3:56pm

John Derbyshire has a couple of popular math books. I read Prime Obsession and found it well-written and engaging. I would steer clear of Mario Livio, though. I wasn't that impressed by The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi and didn't hear good things about his other one.

8ejfertig
Jul 14, 2007, 4:44pm

Chaos: making a new science is a wonderful book about the history of Chaos Theory. Linked is also an interesting book about networks.

9GirlFromIpanema
Jul 14, 2007, 5:40pm

Albrecht Beutelspacher comes to mind (but most of his books aren't available in English). When I was at Uni he used us (the non-Maths students) as his guinea pigs for a few mathematical exhibitions. He then went on and got the Mathematikum going, the first Museum of Mathematics, in Gießen.

10oroboros
Edited: Jul 24, 2007, 1:15am

I recommend Where Mathematics Comes From by Lakoff & Nunez. A tour de force that joins "second generation" cognitive science, linguistics and mathematics in an elegantly cogent, insightful presentation, which ultimately undertakes to explicate the mysterious Euler equation relating π , e, i, 1 and 0 in an eminently understandable fashion based on the conceptual metaphors underlying our language and cognition.

11gautherbelle
Jul 20, 2007, 12:45pm

I found Five Numbers on BBC Radio 4. There were two other segments as well. Another Five Number and A Further Five Numbers. Easily understood by someone like me who has struggled to understand math.

SIMON SINGH
"A quirky look at five of the most important numbers in mathematics. Hear about the stark reality behind the imaginary number, try a slice of pi, find out about the natural beauty of the golden ratio, discover why some infinities are bigger than others, and see why nothing really matters"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/5numbers.shtml

12dperrings
Jul 20, 2007, 12:53pm

gautherbelle

thanks for the link

david perrings

13algebragirl
Jul 22, 2007, 3:29pm

Zero The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.
Very readable and interesting. Who knew the Mayans were so smart?

14Jesse_wiedinmyer
Jul 22, 2007, 4:02pm

I'll second that one, though I know that quite a few people started to get lost around the complex part (I mean "complex", um, literally, or something,,,).

15dperrings
Jul 23, 2007, 8:25pm

Prime Obsession is an interesting book, published in 2003. Now that the 4 color problem and Fermat's Last Theorem have finally been solved.

david

16Kira
Jul 23, 2007, 9:00pm

I enjoyed A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper a lot. It's very simple math, sometimes more logic really... the way it approaches everything shows that even though most math used in newspapers isn't complicated, newspapers use misleading or wrong statistics all the time. After reading the book you really notice it more in papers, like when polls show one party in the lead by 1% point, and make a huge deal of them pulling ahead, but the margin of error in the poll is hiddenly mentioned to be 2%.

17JDHomrighausen
Jul 26, 2007, 1:06pm

Innumeracy was very good, but it didn't talk as much about the actual math. Right now I'm working on Mathematics for the Nonmathematician by Morris Kline and once you get past the blatant Eurocentricity, it's pretty good.

18dperrings
Jul 26, 2007, 8:00pm

what are peoples favorite math puzzle books

and does anyone have a fav. puzzle to share.

david perrings

19dperrings
Jul 26, 2007, 8:00pm

what are peoples favorite math puzzle books

and does anyone have a fav. puzzle to share.

david perrings

21chellerystick
Aug 4, 2007, 11:57pm

I can second Ian Stewart, Gardner, and the Lakoff & Nunez (fascinating discussion of different notions of infinity). I would add the Casti/De Pauli Godel: A Life of Logic and esp. the classic Nagel & Newman Godel's Proof for those curious about Godel and incompleteness. For Fermat's Last Theorem, avoid Aczel, go for Singh's Fermat's Enigma. I really liked Conway & Guy's Book of Numbers.

22vpfluke
Edited: Aug 5, 2007, 12:51am

Popular books I've especially liked are:
The Mathematical Experience - 1982
Bridges to Infinity : the human side of mathematics - 1983.
"Number: From Prehistoric Times to the Computer Age" by John Mcleish -- 1992 (Title Touchstone doesn't work)
Math for Mystics: From the Fibonacci sequence to Luna's Labyrinth to the Golden Section and Other Secrets of Sacred Geometry, by Renno Shesso, which is kind of New Agish and a stretch for some, but I liked reading it anyway.

23pw0327
Edited: Jun 4, 2008, 11:43am

I read The Men of Mathematics when I was a young gradual student in the mid eighties and it was tremendous. I did a minor in math and that book helped me appreciate the work so much more.

I have made my way through a lot of the books listed. My favorite has been James Gleick and Simon Singh, both are articulate and are excellent communicators. Charles Seife's book Zero was totally awesome, I loved it. My only experience with Stewart comes from his latest on Symmetry, so far its just so-so, I am having a hard time focusing.

One thing I would recommend, stay away from Amir Aczel, he is terrible, he skips around makes dubious extensions between stories and tries to draw ridiculous relationships between mathematicians. He has a way with topics though, he did a book on the Bourbakis and botched it completely.

24Jesse_wiedinmyer
Aug 23, 2007, 2:23am

I was distinctly unimpressed by The Artist and the Mathematician, also.

25scottja
Aug 23, 2007, 4:48pm

And I found Descartes' Secret Notebook almost unreadable.

26wyrdchao
Oct 1, 2007, 3:38am

Has anybody read this?

Dead Reckoning: Calculating without Instruments

I am a bit addicted to unassisted/pencil and paper arithmetic and math, and loved it. Lost my copy a few years ago in a move. Covers the huge number of arithmetical tricks/algorithms available to do things like exponentiation, weird roots, trig and log functions, and more.

27vpfluke
Oct 1, 2007, 10:37pm

Sounds interesting. I will try to get a copy from one of the Long Island libraries that has a copy.

28eileen82
Oct 12, 2007, 11:17am

I loved Fermat's Enigma, it's mathematics that go way over my head and still I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to an interested high school-student. I also loved the code book by the same author, it's a great example of both applied linguistics and applied mathematics - and very entertaining to read too! As a teacher-to-be in both maths and language, I can't help but smile :)

29tmcarthur First Message
Edited: Nov 6, 2007, 8:01pm

I'd have to say Godel, Escher, Bach was one of my favorites, even as a computer science and math major it definitely was an interesting look at everything. I think a good math popularization doesn't leave mathematicians behind personally, it's accessible to everyone. Personally, I also really like when math and history are mixed, so stuff similar to The Code Book (getting a bit into computers, but it definitely hits on a lot of number theory.).

30wyrdchao
Nov 7, 2007, 7:34am

>29 tmcarthur: Does The Code Book get into cryptography at the algorithmic level? I am working semi-seriously on an encryption/authentication scheme for a CGI app; I always like to know how things work down in the guts of the libraries I'm using. Do you think this book is rigorous enough that I'd get something out of it in that regard?

31vpfluke
Nov 8, 2007, 12:46pm

I don't recall The Code Book having an algorithmic quality to it. I took a look at Amazon and one of the reviewers recommended books by Bruce Schneier, such as Applied Cryptography (and perhaps Practical Cryptography (Schneier wrote with Niels Ferguson)).

32tmcarthur
Nov 10, 2007, 1:23pm

Applied Cryptography is pretty much -the standard- for algorithmic cryptography implementations. There's some more advanced stuff if you're a researcher, but if you're a researcher you should probably have a pretty large understanding of number theory to begin with.

33shanglee
Feb 23, 2008, 3:43am

I thought The man who loved only numbers was quite a good read.

34hashiru
Jun 1, 2008, 5:11pm

There is the classic "What is Mathematics" by Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins.

There are innumerable books on popular number theory and recreational mathematics. One of my favorites is: "The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers" by David Wells, which includes my own personal favorite, the Hardy Taxi Cab Number (you'll just have to look it up :-)

35Jesse_wiedinmyer
Aug 10, 2008, 4:09pm

A recent rave from one of the posters at Readerville -

The education of T.C. MITS : what modern mathematics means to you

It’s a math for the masses book, but it is really more about how ideas make life better. It is a little funny how the authors’ moral derived from the calculation of the circumference of a circle is that “your head CAN go farther than your feet!”

The book covers everything from statistics to finite algebra and non-Euclidian geometry, (from which we learn we must “Pull your mind out of those muddy old ruts and adapt yourself to a continually CHANGING world!") But what really gets me about the book, aside from its light, irreverent tone, is that it was first published in 1942 in a special, super-sturdy G.I. edition. Apparently for soldiers to cart around in their back pockets and read. I am trying, and failing, to imagine a publisher with a math book conceiving of such a marketing strategy today.

Really, I find myself utterly charmed.

36Jesse_wiedinmyer
Aug 15, 2008, 4:55pm

LT author Michelle Richmond offers a brief rundown of a few of her favorites...

Math for the Rest of Us

37drbubbles
Aug 20, 2008, 10:10am

This is a popularization in the atypical sense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9dpTTpjymE

It's also "teh awesum."

38LMHTWB
Nov 20, 2011, 3:24pm

I was wondering if anyone had newer books to add to this list of popularizations? It's been 3+ years.

I just received Euler's Gem and it looks interesting -- more heft than some of the books by Kaplan, Maor, or Devlin.

39daschaich
Nov 20, 2011, 11:13pm

The only math popularization I've read recently is 1089 and All That by David Acheson. I enjoyed it overall but wouldn't recommend it very strongly. (While writing this message, I posted a minireview in its work page.) However, it is extremely short, and might be something fun if free time is hard to come by.

40ahkaissi
Nov 26, 2011, 3:33pm

There are quite a few books that I read over the past 3 months or so:

1- A mathematical nature walk by Adam
2- Gamma by Julian Havil
3- The calculus gallery by Dunham
4- unknown quantity by Derbyshire
5- Pythagorean theorem by Posamentier
6- pythagora's revenge by sangalli (a novel)

& currently reading a certain ambiguity (novel) by suri & bal

I would say that they were good readings where mathematical history, fiction & actual math were harmoniously mixed!

41LMHTWB
Edited: Nov 27, 2011, 9:46am

>39 daschaich:&40 Thanks for the suggestions. Several of the books look like good candidates for my high school students, whereas a book like Gamma is a bit more technical than they could handle. The math novels, especially A Certain Ambiguity might actual appeal to them more.

42scarper
Dec 1, 2011, 3:27pm

I enjoyed Alex's Adventures in Numberland as a broad popular review of all things mathematical.
Numbers: A Very Short Introduction is a great intoduction to number theory that manages to cover a lot of ground in 150 pages

43alco261
Dec 3, 2011, 10:27am

I'll second Men of Mathematics and Prime Obsession. I'd also add A history of Pi by Beckmann and Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers by Gullberg. The last is one of those books you can start reading almost anywhere since the chapters are reasonably self contained. While not a popularizaton The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Tufte is a fantastic book concerning the issues of graphical excellence and how proper graphing allows one to extract information from data (in light of some of the issues you have fought over in the P&C section I think you might find all three of Tufte's books to be worth your while).

44fvenez
Edited: Dec 3, 2011, 3:48pm

Certainly What is mathematics? I think it is the best by far.
Everything by Martin Gardner: he really was good at presenting his columns in a light way, and his recreational mathematics is real mathematics.
I must warn against Flatland (as a maths popularisation book): it is a fine book, and it may appeal to "scientific-minded" people, but really in has nothing to do with mathematics. It is a social commentary about Victorian society, and nothing else.

45kensor
Jan 3, 2012, 5:35am

At the risk of stretching the idea of popularization, or perhaps just transforming it from a donut to a coffee cup, a tip for finding newer interesting books is to look at math publishers' sites. For example, the MAA site (Mathematical Association of America) has a catalog on-line which includes Charming Proofs, a 2010 volume with lots of material and resources.

Another example is Jean Gallier's Discrete Mathematics, a Universitext published in 2011 by Springer. Intended for a first course for undergraduates, this book starts with reasoning, then goes to relations, graphs, and beyond. Computer science students will appreciate this text.

If this second recommendation causes a little nervousness, check out the older, but very readable, Sets, Logic and Axiomatic Theories by Stoll and the classic Axiomatic Set Theory by Suppes, for preliminary reading. The point of this message is to suggest that even though these books are not "popularizations" in the usual sense of the word, they can be just as understandable with careful reading.

46prosfilaes
Jan 4, 2012, 1:15am

#45: a tip for finding newer interesting books is to look at math publishers' sites

One part of popular is available for sale at a reasonable price. Personally, I'm not thrilled with crossing the $10 line. It keeps me from reading a lot of math books, since Dover is about the only one who publishes below that line. I'll cross it sometimes, but $60 for Charming Proofs? Not a chance.

47Carnophile
Jan 4, 2012, 9:04am

or perhaps just transforming it from a donut to a coffee cup...

Heh.

48kensor
Jan 6, 2012, 7:20am

>46 prosfilaes: Yes, expensive, but interesting, or worse, required, books can be vexing, and especially at new textbook prices.

Another idea is to locate bookstores that sell publishers' overstock for math books, or whatever else is of interest. From years ago I remember a weekend stroll with a tall coffee into a Half Price Books store, and leaving with the coffee finished and a backpack full of Dover books. I don't remember having one of their HPB calendar coupons, either.

49elenchus
Jan 6, 2012, 9:56am

I recently read Tobias Dantzig's 1930s book Number: The Language of Science and found it fascinating. I'm more comfortable reading philosophy than mathematics and though there was plenty of math & equation to sail over my head, it didn't seem excessive and has prompted me to put it in my re-read pile.

There are several editions of the book, later editions added Part II which I've not read.

50bertilak
Jan 6, 2012, 1:23pm

I particularly like Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P. Thompson. I recommend the latest edition, edited by Martin Gardner.

This is a popularization in that it appeals to the reader's intuition and it can be understood by a bright high school student.

51tungsten_peerts
Dec 18, 2013, 7:26pm

I'm surprised no one has mentioned William Dunham. I read Journey Through Genius while in the hospital a few years ago and it helped take my mind off ... well, other things!