# Reviews and recommendations

'Computers, Ltd.'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).

'Stamping Through Mathematics'Robin J Wilson's book is "not", as he assures the reader in the Preface, "a history of mathematics book in the conventional sense of the word". No indeed. It is, rather, a selective account of aspects of the history of mathematics which have appeared on postage stamps from across the world.

'The Math of Money'Money is peculiar stuff. It has no use of any kind apart from its value in exchange for something else, and this grows over time as it earns interest, or shrinks as inflation overtakes it. If you have money to invest, there are a bewildering array of different kinds of financial instrument available: interest-bearing accounts, bonds, pension funds, stocks and shares, options ...

'Hidden Unity in Nature's Laws'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.

The Interactive Geometry Software - 'Cinderella' Version 1.2The very fetching purple and yellow packaging states that this is "the" interactive geometry software. A little optimistic, perhaps; The Geometer's Sketchpad and Cabri both have their - not insubstantial - followings. And the previous release of Cinderella gave the impression of a terribly well-featured package lacking slickness. But therein lies the value of Version 1.2: slickness.

'The Tyranny of Numbers'The author says in the introduction that "this book is intended as a polemic", and a polemic it certainly is. Whether or not you like the book will therefore depend not only on whether you agree with his thesis, but also on whether or not you like polemic.

'The Golden Section'The golden section (or golden ratio), famously, was used in antiquity, when the ancient Greeks built temples the proportions of whose parts - by accident or design - are often supposed to have fallen in the golden ratio.

'MathInsight 2002 Calendar'It's worth pointing out right at the start that this wouldn't be a particularly good choice of calendar if you actually want to keep track of the year. The calendar is large (A2 size) but the days of the month occupy only a 1cm-high section of each page - and the day names aren't even included, just their numbers.

Raising Public Awareness of Mathematics - CD ROMRaising Public Awareness of Mathematics - CD ROM Nov 2001 Raising Public Awareness of Mathematics by the Centre for the Popularisation of Mathematics This CD ROM, produced by the Centre for the Popularisation of Mathematics at the University of Wales in Bangor, is a most unusu

'The Maths Gene'f you're flicking casually through the books in the "popular mathematics" section of your local bookshop, and see this book but fail to read the subtitle, you might well think that its theme is that some people are born with a "maths gene", and some without - and that possession of this gene is the major factor in determining who can do maths, and who can't.

'Ingenious Pursuits'Professor Jardine's latest book is a broad survey of a remarkable period in history, the so-called Scientific Revolution. The premise of Jardine's narrative is that we currently live on one side or the other of a gulf in understanding between the sciences and the arts - the so-called "Two Cultures" defined by C P Snow - and her aim is to show, by illustrating the roots of modern science, that this cultural divide is a modern construct. Jardine therefore focuses her attention on the overlap and interchange of science, mathematics and the arts throughout the intellectual ferment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

'The Cogwheel Brain'I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam."
With these words, spoken in 1821, Charles Babbage embarked on the great quest of his life - the attempt to fully automate calculation. Goaded by the all-pervasive errors in the tables of the period, he began to conceive of a great machine that would replace human fallibility with utter mechanical reliability.