Reviews and recommendations
'A lifetime of puzzles', 'Homage to a pied puzzler' and 'Mathematical wizardry for a Gardner'There has been a recent spate of books in honour of Martin Gardner, who has spent over half of his 95 years entertaining us with his recreational mathematics.
'Deciphering the cosmic number' If the quest for a physical theory of everything, and some of the strange concepts that have sprung from it, strikes you as somewhat mystical, then this is just the book you need to explore the idea further.
'Sync: the emerging science of spontaneous order'It's not very often that something I read makes me want to jack in my lovely job at Plus and return to study and research. But that is just what happened when reading Sync by Steven Strogatz.
'Strange attractors'It's not often I get misty-eyed reading a book about mathematics, but that was just what happened when I read this, and several other poems, in the poetry collection Strange Attractors: Poems of love and mathematics.
'The magic numbers of the Professor'The Magic Numbers of the Professor revolves around a fictional professor and a huge range of magical numbers. Written in a narrative style, the book documents a series of visits the Professor makes from America to Ireland to visit Owen O'Shea, the author of both this book and a fictional column within the story.
'Number story'When Number story first landed on my desk I was struck by its prettiness. With its tasteful and slightly old-fashioned cover design, the unusually compact format for a hardback, and the unassuming title, this book clearly isn't desperate for attention. So I was intrigued to find out whether this quiet confidence is justified by its content, and I'm glad to report that it is.
'Guesstimation'We've all been there. You're in a bar with a group of friends. The night draws in. The empties pile up. The conversation turns to sublime speculation and ridiculous argument. How many golf balls would you need to circle the Earth? What's the risk of being killed by a shark? How efficient is wind power? How far does your average Premiership footballer run in a game? How can we put an end to all these questions and go home?
'The symmetries of things'Symmetry abounds: the wallpaper, your chair, even your own body. Familiar types of symmetry include reflection in a line and rotation about a point. Creating a repeating pattern by translating a core segment to a new place, common in wallpaper, also counts as a symmetry, as does switching without the use of a mirror from an anticlockwise segment to one otherwise identical but oriented clockwise.
'Universe of stone' If you are interested in how medieval cathedrals came into being, and the mathematics associated with their architecture and construction, then this book is for you.
'Origami, Eleusis and the Soma Cube'I would guess that, even a decade ago, the phrase "mathematical recreation" would have been considered a contradiction in terms. Now, in the age of compulsive Sudoku puzzlers, and an increasing canon of popular mathematics books, this descriptor has become credible.
'Is God a mathematician?' "Oh god, I hope not," was the reaction of a student when Livio asked the title question at a lecture, and it's a reaction that's likely to be replicated by many unsuspecting bookshop browsers. But despite its frightening title, the book's appeal could not be broader.
'An imaginary tale'Engineers often consider mathematics a necessary evil rather than a pursuit in itself. The author of An imaginary tale, Paul J. Nahin, is therefore a rare find.