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Monday, July 25, 2011

Richard Elwes... Never Boring

Some time ago I stumbled across Richard Elwes' "Mathematics 1001" volume in a bookstore (having never heard of either Elwes or the book) and was quite delighted with that encyclopedic compendium of mathematical information. This weekend, another Elwes volume, "Mathematics, Without the Boring Bits," was my lucky, accidental find in a bookstore, and it too looks to delight. My sense is that Elwes' books, coming from Britain, don't get as wide a distribution and publicity as they deserve here (in US).

I'm barely into this volume but it looks to be another wonderful, what-I-call 'nugget' book -- even at 200 pages it serves up math in very palatable bite-size nuggets, often introducing some topic in a page or less... and it only brings up the sort of topics a non-professional math person will find fun or interesting. The selection is excellent, the format attractive, and the writing entertaining and engaging. Having said that, some of the topics are covered so briefly I'm not sure a mathematical novice will always get the point or fully appreciate the significance, and a professional mathematician, on-the-other-hand, may find little new here, he/she isn't quite familiar with. So the intended audience (I think) for the book may be those who already have some background and inclination toward math, but not enough academic training to make these particular topics old hat. In any event, nice to see this array of mind-bending topics brought together succinctly in the pages of a single breezy volume.

Elwes also has a blog here:


...and here's a fun post he did a bit ago on one of my favorite topics, self-reference/recursion:


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