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Friday, November 12, 2010

A Non-Math Friday...


Just a couple of notes tangential to math today:

First off, Peter Woit has a quick (and positive) review of the new book "Massive" by Ian Sample (on particle physics, and principally the Higgs Boson), up at his blog; worth a look:

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=3266

On a lighter note, I'm now reading/enjoying Martin Gardner's final book, the "Colossal Book of Wordplay," a slightly odd volume. First it is NOT "colossal," and second, although he certainly dabbled in wordplay previously, it is not what Gardner is famous for.

This smallish volume is barely 150 pages with large print and smallish pages... I'm not sure if the "colossal" in the title is merely a takeoff on his previous "Colossal Book of Mathematics," or whether the title itself is intended as some sort of ironic 'wordplay' on this quite slim volume (or possibly the volume was originally to include yet more material that was never completed due to Gardner's death earlier this year?).

Nonetheless, it is a fun, jaunty book covering a wide range of wordplay with frequent intervening bits of quirky entertainment. Possibly it could be organized a little better, at times seeming to me slightly disjointed or 'thrown together,' and I wish Gardner had gone into greater depth at times (as Douglas Hofstadter has previously done on some of this material), but for nine bucks it's worth the price of admission, if you have an interest in the quirks of language (as a lot of mathematicians, and other analytical sorts, do). My expectations for Gardner are so high that this book probably falls short of them, but were it any lesser author, I'd easily give it a thumbs-up.

The content ranges from almost juvenile or goofy entries to well-known standards, to amusements that almost any reader will find new to them. There are puzzles and palindromes, poems and anagrams, brain teasers, word games, riddles, and everything in-between. If nothing on one page strikes your fancy, something on the next page likely will.
If you love words, get this book. Think of it as Gardner's final stocking stuffer gift to us. (I haven't seen it yet in a single bookstore, and had to order it online, so not sure how widely distributed it is.)

Finally, and slightly more math related, Alex Bellos covers a recent Rubik's Cube competition here:

http://alexbellos.com/?p=1429 

1 comment:

.mau. said...

I think that Colossal refers indeed to the Colossal Book of Mathematics. If I recall correctly, Gardner was already reviewing it when he died, so I don't think he would have put any deeper material.