Reviews

It's quite refreshing to find a book on maths that is so upbeat and infectious as How to build a brain. Certainly the title is a misnomer; one would immediately associate it to artificial intelligence or biology, but in reality this book is about how mathematics finds its way into many aspects of our world.

In 2006 the Fields Medal — one of the highest honours in mathematics — was awarded to Grigory Perelman for solving the Poincaré conjecture, a famously difficult problem that had stumped mathematicians for a century. To the surprise of many, and the excitement of the media, Perelman declined the award and withdrew not only from mathematics but from the world generally. In Perfect rigour Masha Gessen sheds some light on this brilliant and perplexing character and the reasons why he would renounce both the worldly rewards of his mathematical achievement and also his beloved vocation, mathematics itself.

Loving and hating mathematics is an intriguing title, but it doesn't tell you what this book is about. More informative is the subtitle: Challenging the myths of mathematical life. The book is a collaboration between a mathematician, Reuben Hersh, and a psychologist in the fields of linguistics and education, Vera John-Steiner.

With twenty skillfully written essays Tony Crilly paints a broad-stroke picture of modern mathematics, focusing on some of the most exciting topics. This book is intended for people whose acquaintance with mathematics is limited to their high school years, but who want to know "what all this fuss is about". It is ideal for those who have heard that mathematicians talk about imaginary numbers and unbreakable codes, and want to know how much of it, if any, is true.

When Gems of Geometry arrived through the post it seemed the Gods had conspired to despatch the perfect book for me to review. Like the author, John Barnes, I have a fascination with Edwin Abbot Abbot’s Flatland and spent many childhood hours gluing paper models of fantastical geometric constructions together.

Computing is at the heart of our modern world, but what are its frontiers? This book presents new trends in this fast growing field. Although the topics covered range from spacecraft control to embedding intelligence in bacteria, they all coincide in one fundamental point: the future of computing is a synthesis with nature.