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Mathematics and Sex (2003)

by Clio Cresswell

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843273,866 (3.05)1
Mathematics and sex may make odd bedfellows, but this fun, flirty look at the relationship between the two subjects shows that they are closely related. Revealing the ways in which math can help unlock the secrets of love, lust, and life's search for the ideal partner, this intriguing text covers topics such as dating services, dating as game theory, the mathematical logic of affairs, and the numbers behind orgasms. Math's answers to love's burning questions How much should one compromise in a relationship? Exactly what is it that is attractive in a lover? How many partners should one have before settling down? and What makes the infamous biological clock tick? are also revealed.… (more)
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Deludente. Già il titolo non lasciava presupporre gran ché di buono - troppo commerciale. Davvero ottimi, al contrario, gli spunti di argomenti, che però sono tutti da approfondire perché l'autrice ogni tanto butta lì qualche equazione ma, per chi di matematica ne sa un po', la cosa è piuttosto frustrante, dal momento che le equazioni non soltanto non sono commentate, ma neppure si comunica a cosa corrispondano le variabili!
Fortunatamente c'è grande attenzione nel citare i nomi e cognomi di chi, in particolare, si è occupato dei vari problemi; con l'aiuto di internet e di un accesso ai db delle riviste specializzate, pertanto, è possibile approfondire.
La traduzione e la redazione italiana sono veramente trascurate (basti pensare al Max Plance Institut) e anche la scrittura, se forse nell'originale inglese può essere divertente, in italiano è a tratti davvero patetica. Peccato. ( )
  Eva_Filoramo | May 3, 2018 |
Ok, but lacked a spark for me. There were some interesting problems, though once or twice it threatened to veer into Cliff Arnall territory. It plainly wasn't like that in later chapters, but there it felt like the aim was to write about certain mathematical topics, like game theory or matching and the sex part was bolted on as an example.

The writing is very approachable and I'd certainly read another book by her, so I'm puzzled why I don't feel it's a four or more. It's one of the mysteries of the heart. ( )
  alun | Apr 9, 2013 |
Summary: Mathematics and Sex is about exactly what it sounds like... wait, don't run away yet! Many areas of research in human sexuality and mating behavior have turned to mathematics to help them understand patterns of human behavior. Equations can be used to predict behavior, and then empirical studies can help validate and refine the equations. But it's not all dry academia - mathematics have some surprising predictions about how things like the optimal number of partners to have before settling down (correct answer: 12), the amount of compromise needed to sustain a marriage over the long term (very little!), how dating services determine your perfect match (lots of math, but also some guesswork), and why we find certain people attractive in the first place (symmetry and a sense of humor).

Review: First things first: This is not a math book. It is a pop-sci book about sex research that uses math as a framing device, rather than a focus. Cresswell presents math as a way of understanding patterns - patterns of numbers, patterns of celestial movements, patterns of human sexual behavior, whatever. She does occasionally give equations, but she also explains what they mean in plain language right below, so you can read right over the mathematical symbols without worrying about every summation and exponent. Basically, if you can read dR/dt = aJ as "the change in Romeo's feelings over time is directly proportional to the way that Juliet feels about him at the moment," you're more than prepared enough to understand this book. And, even if you can't get that text from the equation yourself, not to worry: Cresswell does it for you, every time.

Essentially, Mathematics and Sex is very similar to Mary Roach's Bonk, although with an emphasis on more theoretical rather than practical avenues of sex research (i.e. no Doin' It inside an MRI machine here.) Unfortunately, Cresswell is not as effortless a writer as Roach, so the prose is not as smooth, with some grammatical mistakes and phrasing choices that I found somewhat jarring. Similarly, while I think she was aiming for a light and humorous tone to her writing (again similar to Bonk), it occasionally came across as feeling forced, and didn't always work for me. Some of the topics she selected seemed equally strange - most were on point, but some seemed totally off. For example, in the chapter about why we only have two sexes, she embarks on a long, in-depth explanation of cytoplasmic parasitic genes without even mentioning the math behind the evolution of anisogamy (having two types of gametes that differ in size), which I think is more straightforward, more understandable to the non-biologist, and should have been right up her alley.

Overall, while I was familiar with some of topics covered in this book, I did learn some things as well, and while Cresswell is not the best science writer I've come across, she does do an excellent job of making the science and mathematics of sex research accessible to the general public. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fans of Mary Roach's Bonk are the obvious audience here, but both books would be of interest to general pop-sci readers with at least a minor prurient bent. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Mar 7, 2010 |
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For many people just seeing the words 'mathematics' and 'sex' in the same sentence is odd enough, let alone discovering there is a deep relationship between the two.
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Mathematics and sex may make odd bedfellows, but this fun, flirty look at the relationship between the two subjects shows that they are closely related. Revealing the ways in which math can help unlock the secrets of love, lust, and life's search for the ideal partner, this intriguing text covers topics such as dating services, dating as game theory, the mathematical logic of affairs, and the numbers behind orgasms. Math's answers to love's burning questions How much should one compromise in a relationship? Exactly what is it that is attractive in a lover? How many partners should one have before settling down? and What makes the infamous biological clock tick? are also revealed.

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