Mathematical Circus


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Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Mathematical Circus by Martin Gardner

Mathematical Circus is one of many recreational mathematics books assembled from the Scientific American columns of Martin Gardner. It lives up to its title in a variety of ways: several chapters detail magic tricks, there are games included, and there is even material on natural wonders such as optical illusions and the structure of the solar system. The content is frequently dated (1979 to be precise) by subsequent advances in information science and natural observation, but none of it is so obsolete as to be useless, and a few chapters are explicitly concerned with more nostalgic forms of math, such Mascheroni constructions and abacus operations.

This book is more designedly for entertainment than my usual math reads, but there were points where the mathematical sophistication was every bit as challenging. Of special interest to me were the chapters on hyperspheres, Boolean algebra, and palindromes. The “Solar System Oddities” chapter is surprisingly unencumbered by antiquated references to Pluto, and has a really fascinating digest of solar system paradigms from Pythagoras to Einstein. Chess material is confined to one item each in the two smorgasbord chapters.

A full bibliography indicates Gardner’s sources. [via]