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Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas

Overview

“A profusely illustrated, bemusingly unorthodox introduction to math.”—Booklist
A book for the eternally curious, Coincidences fuses a professor’s understanding of the hidden mathematical skeleton of the universe with the sensibility of a stand-up comedian, making life’s big questions accessible and compelling. Each chapter opens with a surprising insight—not a mathematic formula, but a common observation. From there, the authors leapfrog over math and anecdote toward profound ideas about nature, art, and music. ...

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Overview

“A profusely illustrated, bemusingly unorthodox introduction to math.”—Booklist
A book for the eternally curious, Coincidences fuses a professor’s understanding of the hidden mathematical skeleton of the universe with the sensibility of a stand-up comedian, making life’s big questions accessible and compelling. Each chapter opens with a surprising insight—not a mathematic formula, but a common observation. From there, the authors leapfrog over math and anecdote toward profound ideas about nature, art, and music. Coincidences is a book for lovers of puzzles and posers of outlandish questions, lapsed math aficionados and the formula-phobic alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Award-winning professors Edward Burger and Michael Starbird are convinced that mathematics doesn't deserve its bad rep. Their profusely illustrated Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz draws arithmophobes painlessly into the world of mathematical thinking. They explain what the spirals on a pineapple can teach us about Fibonacci numbers and describe how a twisted piece of paper can help us conceptualize the shape of the universe. Proof positive that "fun math" isn't an oxymoron.
Ben Longstaff - New Scientist
“I once had a math teacher who used to throw books at us. If only this had been one of them.”
Ian Stewart
“Informative, intelligent, and refreshingly irreverent. A roller-coaster ride along the frontiers of today’s mathematics, and anyone can climb on board. I enjoyed it immensely.”
Library Journal
Two award-winning math professors take a lighthearted approach to explaining the mysteries of math to the rest of us. Who knew that pineapples could lead us to the fabled Golden Ratio? With a four-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The average American has one testicle and one ovary, state the authors of this text for the math-phobic. They are quite right. That statistics are misleading is comically demonstrated by Burger (Mathematics/Williams Coll.) and Starbird (Mathematics/Univ. of Texas, Austin). These antic authors make accessible information about cosmology and topology, some theories of chance and randomness, and thoughts about fractals, factors, Fibonaci progressions and use of a quincunx. Readers will discover how two accurate computers can yield different answers to the same problem and will learn many facts about the square of the hypotenuse. Instruction on how to reverse your pants while your ankles are tied together may not be part of the usual math course, but it is prime Burger and Starbird. They have our number, and from Turing's thinking machines to LeCorbusier's use of the Golden Triangle, it's all calculated to appeal. Let them count the ways they love numbers: prime, infinite or even twice infinite. (Yes, they discuss that concept too.) They leap from academia to engage nerdy enthusiasts and the seriously math-challenged alike. "There are," they declare, "three types of people: those who count precisely and those who don't." The gags and the countless puns may strain, but the teaching is lucid and accessible. Throughout, the illustrations make excellent additions as the authors enumerate the charms and grandeurs of numbers. A bit of math in a nutshell, totaling fun.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393329315
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/30/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 398,161
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward B. Burger is professor of mathematics and chair at Williams College. He has won several prestigious teaching and writing awards from the Mathematical Association of America. He lives in Massachusetts.

Michael Starbird is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of UT’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. He lives in Texas.

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Table of Contents

1 Unbridled coincidences : likelihood, lady luck, and lady love 3
2 Chaos reigns : why we can't predict the future 20
3 Digesting life's data : statistical surprises 42
4 Secrets held, secrets revealed : cryptography decrypted 65
5 Sizing up numbers : how many? How big? How quick? 78
6 A synergy between nature and number : a search for pattern 100
7 From precise beauty to pure chaos : picturing aesthetics through the lens of mathematics 123
8 Origami for the origamically challenged : from paper folding to computers and fiery fractals 146
9 A twisted turn in an amorphous universe : an exploration of an elasticized world 166
10 The universe next door : the magic of the fourth dimension 201
11 Moving beyond the confines of our nutshell : a journey into infinity 231
12 In search of something still larger : a journey beyond infinity 246
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