book review

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 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.
"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.
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.
Computers can do many things, but there are some things they can't do. They certainly can't play tennis or the violin, but those aren't the kinds of thing we're concerned with. There are computational questions, questions of the kind that we would naturally turn to a computer to help us with, that, in fact, they cannot answer (and nor, therefore, can we).
"The pleasure and interest of being a scientist need not be confined to those gifted people who have the ability to pursue the highly specialised studies which are necessary for those who would reach the main frontiers of scientific advance." G. I. Taylor, one of the great physicists of the twentieth century, among the last masters of both theory and experiment.
This is one of the world's outstanding pedagogic texts. It has the rare distinction of being a mathematics book that has sold a million copies. The COMAP project is a coalition of leading mathematicians and educators, directed by Solomon Garfunkel, who over a period of twelve years and five ever-expanding editions have created a beautiful introduction to the practical applications of some of the most important areas of discrete mathematics.
John Haigh takes the above quote as the epigraph for "Taking Chances", and makes his own significant contribution to scientific literacy. He concerns himself with "games of chance" in the broadest sense, from the National Lottery, quiz shows, casino games and card, dice and coin games, through game-theoretic "games" such as military conflicts, to all types of sports.
Avid readers of popular books on the laws of nature are tolerably familiar with a number of facts. They know that electricity, magnetism and the weak force between elementary particles have been unified, that Einstein's theory of special relativity arose from an attempt to reconcile Newtonian mechanics with the laws of electromagmetism, and that his later theory of general relativity had something to do with the structure of spacetime.