book review

"All models are wrong, but some are useful," is what the well-known statistician George Box said about statistical models. We look at his autobiography which, although not what you might expect, is a fascinating read.

This book is an exploration of urban landscapes, providing a fresh view on metropolitan life.

It's not often you see a maths professor reduced to zero on stage and then stuffed into a bag. But this is exactly what happened to Marcus du Sautoy at the Science Museum — and by means of a mathematical argument at that. Only du Sautoy wasn't being himself of course. He was playing the role of X in the new play, X&Y.

This book is designed to help parents support their teenagers through school maths. But with its focus on the big picture, the connections within mathematics and the references to history and applications it is also a welcome resource for teachers and even students themselves.

Martin Gardner has inspired several generations of students to become mathematicians. An ardent fan reviews Gardner's autobiography which goes way beyond his fascination with mathematical games.

Risk is not an easy subject to understand. The theory is too abstract, and often too unpalatable, for people to be comfortable with. Rather than discussing the theory, The Norm Chronicles provides a guide to "risk, chance, luck and coincidence" through the life of the eponymous Norm, chosen to be the average guy, from the cradle to the grave, examining the impact that his various choices make upon him.

When we arrived at the The New Diorama Theatre in London we didn't know what to expect. The universal machine is a musical about the life of mathematician and WWII code breaker Alan Turing. I have only seen one musical in my whole life, Cats, and it made me feel ill, so I really could not fathom how this was going to work. But as it turned out, we loved it.

It's always good to see other people make mistakes, so a book about serious errors committed by some of history's greatest scientists is bound to be a good read. But Mario Livio's new book isn't just about reassuring
ordinary mortals like me, and it's not at all about poking fun at less ordinary ones. It's a thoughtful look at science, the often hap-hazard path of its progress and the limitations of the human mind.

Superposition, an audio-visual performance written by Ryoji Ikeda, is not for the faint hearted. We certainly wouldn't ever be tempted to listen to the sound track on its own. But despite its challenging nature, it is a wonderful experience which evoked a sense of beauty from chaos, mathematics, and physics, carried across by visual art and music.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like the world is a very nice place. The news is filled with war, political conflict, crime – it seems we just can't get along. So it is very cheering indeed to read a book dedicated entirely to convincing you that we are actually very helpful to one another and that the whole world as we know it is only possible thanks to cooperation. And surprisingly the authors don't use psychology or sociology to make their argument – they use maths.

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