book review

What is the nature of the universe that we live in? This is a question that has exercised philosophers and scientists for as long as people have been able to think. Almost everyone has asked it at one time or another, in one form or another. It is hard to imagine a more fundamental question.
This book attempts to take a firm grip on a corner of the slippery issue of consciousness. It is directly related to Roger Penrose's earlier, hugely successful work, The Emperor's New Mind. Although much space is devoted to painstaking replies to the criticisms made of the earlier book, this is not simply a sequel. It contains a number of new ideas, some of which are still being actively debated seven years after the book was first published.
Research on the Universe leads to many such startling conclusions and this book attempts to describe some of the surprising phenomena which occupy astronomers and cosmologists. Our Universe, Martin Rees' laboratory, allows its natural laws to be cleverly interpreted at arm's length, by observing the 'extreme' physics which we could never replicate in a laboratory. The biggest questions have an almost philosophical tenor.
"As Obi-Wan Kenobi said about the Light Sabre in Star Wars IV, a slide-rule is an ancient weapon from a more civilised age," state Chris Budd and Chris Sangwin in their book, Mathematics Galore, soon to released by Oxford University Press. The book digs up the slide-rule and a few more historical artefacts, as well as the art of country dancing, to present a pick-and-mix bag of mathematical ideas for the aspiring mathematician or the mathematically inclined general reader.
This CD ROM, produced by the Centre for the Popularisation of Mathematics at the University of Wales in Bangor, is a most unusual mixture of mathematical exposition and modern art. A central part of the content is a gallery of sculptures by John Robinson, much of whose work takes inspiration from mathematical objects, such as fractals and knots. This work, described by the artist as symbolic sculpture, uses forms such as the logarithmic spiral, and makes connections with the forces that shape our universe.

This beautifully illustrated book by the world's leading authority on African mathematics provides us with a wide-ranging introduction to mathematical intuition in sub-Saharan African cultures. These cultures are extremely diverse and expressive in their creation of designs and motifs that embody geometrical and topological ideas. No one is better qualified to tell us about it than Paulus Gerdes, who has lived and worked in Mozambique for many years.

This is the story of Sarah Flannery, who at age 16 won the titles of 1999 Irish Young Scientist of the Year and European Young Scientist of the Year for her innovative work on cryptography. Written by Sarah with her father David, who taught her mathematics from a young age and encouraged her mathematical flights, the book is an engaging mix of mathematical exposition - always clear and rigorous but never dull - and first-person descriptions of the storm that erupted when the world media latched onto her story. Easily written in a friendly style, you could imagine that this is the adventure of someone you know.
"Math Chat" began as a live phone-in TV show in the USA, spawned a newspaper column and a website, and now it has produced a book. The whole project was the brainchild of Williams' College mathematician Frank Morgan and has both stimulated interest in maths across a broad range of the community and led to the formation of highly successful undergraduate research groups in mathematics.
In this book, Martin Gardner, best known for his columns on recreational maths in Scientific American and the many books collecting this material, surveys a wide range of mathematical magic. Many of the tricks described require little or no dexterity and nothing except readily available props, such as cards or dice, and so are suitable for the beginner.
"The Language of Mathematics" is a book that sets itself an ambitious task - to sum up all of mathematics. Clearly, the author does not intend to do this without omissions - mathematics is far too large a subject for that - rather, he hopes that the reader will come away with an understanding of what maths is and what mathematicians do and why.
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