Reviews

Reading this book feels a bit like putting on a CD of a virtuoso pianist to help inspire my own amateur playing . It does not, and does not try to, give a real taste of what it is like to be a professional mathematician. But the book gives a good picture of a selection of the topics that mathematicians study and have studied, how those topics have developed over the last two thousand years, and how they have profoundly influenced the world around us.

Richard Elwes' Maths handbook is a lucid presentation of basic mathematics facts. It is intended for those who "were never any good at mathematics", for grown-ups who wish they remembered more of the maths they studied as children, or those who are intimidated by the subject. It is the latter point the author is most passionate about. This book serves as a proof that mathematics is a very natural way of thinking, and there is a reason for everything in it.

We don't normally review childrens' books on Plus, but when this colourful volume landed on our desk we couldn't resist. It appeared to do exactly what we try to do all the time: reveal the beauty and fun side of maths and show how it comes up everywhere, as a natural language in which to talk about the world. So we passed it on to two expert representatives of the book's target audience, which is 7 to 11-year olds.

Have you ever wanted to explore the symmetries of the cube and octahedron through an old Japanese art form? Or to investigate fractals using tatting and string art? Or to study the helix by knitting bed socks? If so, or if you are at least open to the idea, then this book would be a good place to start.

Dana Mackenzie's book is a display of modern mathematical developments, which have brought about the solutions of several old and important questions in number theory, topology and the theory of dynamical systems. More recent areas, related to finance and computer science, have also witnessed a lot of attention-grabbing events — some good and some bad. For those with a mathematical background this book makes a fascinating read.

This is a fascinating book on the application of game theory to situations in philosophy, politics, law, history, literature and even the Bible. The author shows that real insight can be obtained into optimal strategies for dealing with some famous dilemmas.