Friday, December 24, 2010

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis

This peculiar (and brilliant) graphic novel tells the story of the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell, as he searches for a logical foundation for mathematics. It goes without saying that this subject matter is usual for a comic. But with wonderful story telling and beautiful artwork this novel manages tell a captivating tale whose heroes (and anti-heroes) are logicians searching for truth.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Five Equations that Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics by Michael Guillen

Written in a clear and easy to understand language, this books tells the story of five separate monumental discoveries by some of histories most renowned scientists (i.e. Isaac Newton, Daniel Bernoulli, Michael Faraday, Rudolf Clausius and Albert Einstein). This book does an excellent job of explaining, among other ideas, Newton's universal law of gravity, Bernoulli's law of hyrodynamic pressure and Einstein's famous theory E = MC2.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Nature by Tom Siegfried

An intriguing look at game theory and how it can be applied in a wide variety of areas (e.g. voting patterns; theories of war and peace; explanations for altruism; biological processes; etc). I found the first part of the book quite good, but was not as captivated by the second half, as I found the book lost its focus near the end. Nevertheless, I found this a very interesting read overall, and would recommend it for anyone interested in game theory or probabilities.

3 out of 5 stars

Algebra: Sets, Symbols, and the Language of Thought (History of Mathematics) by John Tabak

A good history of algebra that would be an ideal text for a high school math class. The book begins with the Mesopotamians, before progressing through the mathematical works of ancient Greece, India, the Islamic World and Asia. The bulk of the book, however, focuses on the works of Europeans, from Descartes and Galois to modern ideas in linear algebra.

3 out of 5 stars

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

This ingenious novel is nothing short of brilliant. Spanning a three month period in 1905 (April to June), this novel "recounts" a series of dreams that Albert Einstein has about time, as he is working on his special theory of relativity. Each chapter describes a different dream, with each dream allowing the young Einstein to analyze time from a different point of view (e.g. time flowing backwards; frozen time; relative time; time as a quality rather than a quantity, e.g.). This wonderful dreamscape is broken up on a few occasions when the reader is given tiny vignettes of Einstein's waking life. For most of the book, however, the reader is allowed to peer into Einstein's dreaming mind as he sleeps, while putting the finishing touches on his theory of time that would go on to revolutionize physics and change the world.

4 out of 5 stars

Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem by Amir D. Azcel

An interesting account on how one of the most famous math problems in history was solved. This being said, though I enjoyed this book, I also found it to be quite disjointed. In other words, Aczel makes the valid point that the proof of Fermat's last theorem was built on the work of numerous mathematicians over the centuries, and that Andrew Wiles (who penned the final proof) can't be given all of the credit. But instead of tying all of these different mathematical ideas into a cohesive narrative, they are instead presented as a series of vignettes. The result is that the reader doesn't feel like they have read a story, but rather a collection of anecdotes that end with the proof of Fermat's most famous theorem.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics (Modern Library Chronicles) by David Berlinski

This short book provides an excellent summary of the history of mathematics, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. I originally borrowed it from the library, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to buy so I could keep it at home as a quick reference guide. This being said, the reader should be warned that the writing is a bit arrogant, and the perspective completely Western (the book's scant attention to the important contributions of the Arabs and Indians hundreds of years ago is a bit galling). Nevertheless, this book provides a good (and succinct) overview of a huge topic, and for that alone it is a useful read.

4 out of 5 stars

The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth- Letter that Made the World Modern by Keith Devlin

A fun book that describes the August 24, 1654, letter from Blaise Pascal to Pierre de Fermat that lay the foundation of probability theory. Describing the correspondence between these two French mathematicians that ensued during 1654, this book explains how a mathematical problem related to gambling set in motion a new mathematical field that allowed mathematicians (and statisticians, stock brokers, gamblers, etc.) to predict possible future outcomes of different events.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Euclid's Window : The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace by Leonard Mlodinow

A good introduction to the history of geometry. Beginning with Pythagoras and Euclid, this book goes on to discuss the great revolutions in geometry, from the co-ordinate system of Descartes, to the non-Euclidean spaces of Gauss and Riemann, to the general theory of relativity of Einstein, and finally the mind-bending geometric spaces of string theory. Overall, this is a great beginning for anyone interested in the study of space.

3 out of 5 stars

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity (Great Discoveries) by David Foster Wallace

I had no idea that the late-David Foster Wallace was a math aficionado. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to stumble across this captivating book on the history of infinity. Though certain parts of the book went over my head -- you really need a strong background in calculus and set theory to full appreciate this work -- I was still drawn in by many of the fascinating mathematical concepts related to infinity. From Zeno's paradox to the creation of infinitesimals to the work of Georg Cantor, this book inspired me to read further on number theory and the concept of infinity.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars