In charming prose that more or less makes up for the relative lack of rigor in many of his explorations, about which Hayes is refreshingly honest ("I see no reason to doubt this assumption, at least as an approximation, but I also have no evidence to support it"), science and technology journalist Hayes (Infrastructure) explains the engineering and arithmetic of clocks and gears, wracks his brain over questions of how best to flip a mattress and visits "the prettiest wrong idea in all of twentieth-century science... the vision of piglets suckling on messenger RNA." As he examines huge calculating tables rendered obsolete by computers, Hayes "cannot help wondering which of my labors will appear equally quaint and pathetic to some future reader." This observation is echoed by the afterwords where Hayes addresses pointed questions and observations from readers, displaying a brave willingness to admit error and acknowledge advances made since these pieces were first published in the Sciencesand American Scientist. Present-day readers would do best to approach this collection more for its literary merits than its revelation of obscure history or cutting-edge mathematical theory. 41 b&w illus. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversionsby Hayes
Brian Hayes is one of the most accomplished essayists active todaya claim supported not only by his prolific and continuing high-quality output but also by such honors as the National Magazine Award for his commemorative Y2K essay titled "Clock of Ages," published in the November/December 1999 issue of The Sciences magazine. (The also-rans that year/i>
Brian Hayes is one of the most accomplished essayists active todaya claim supported not only by his prolific and continuing high-quality output but also by such honors as the National Magazine Award for his commemorative Y2K essay titled "Clock of Ages," published in the November/December 1999 issue of The Sciences magazine. (The also-rans that year included Tom Wolfe, Verlyn Klinkenborg, and Oliver Sacks.) Hayes's work in this genre has also appeared in such anthologies as The Best American Magazine Writing, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Norton Reader. Here he offers us a selection of his most memorable and accessible piecesincluding "Clock of Ages"embellishing them with an overall, scene-setting preface, reconfigured illustrations, and a refreshingly self-critical "Afterthoughts" section appended to each essay.
If your idea of fun includes puzzling over the creation of an algorithm for the Continental Divide, then this essay collection by the former editor in chief of American Scientist(AS) will tickle your imagination. Hayes, now an award-winning columnist for AS, has put together some of his best pieces and has included with each a section called "Afterthoughts," in which he enthusiastically adds new information and humbly corrects old mistakes. Hayes explores topics as diverse as the centuries-old Strasbourg clock, economic theory, randomness, DNA, gear ratios, weather forecasting, and war and international relations. And with tongue firmly in cheek, he even writes about the ways that one can flip a mattress. Although one need not be a rocket scientist-or even an undergraduate math major-to understand Hayes's work, the wit and elegance of the essays are best appreciated by those with a solid math background and an interest in math play. Recommended for large public libraries and academic libraries supporting programs in mathematics and computer science.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“If you ever lie awake pondering the complexities of the universe, you may have a soul buddy in Brian Hayes.” New Scientist
“Hayes is an assured and genial guide through the often thorny wilds of computation and mathematics.” The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis–St. Paul)
“Group Theory in the Bedroom and Other Mathematical Diversions is a marvelous collection of thought-provoking essays that both inform and entertain. You'll be amazed by the things you'll discover in these stories.” Ron Graham, professor of mathematics, computer science and engineering, University of California, San Diego, former chief scientist of AT&T, and past president of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America and the International Jugglers Association
“Brian Hayes's book is a refreshing collection of superb mathematical essays. Ranging from choosing up sides to choosing names, the topics are intriguingly nonstandard. Moreover, the writing is clean, the explanations are pellucid, and the effect on the reader is exhilarating. First-rate all the way through.” John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences and the forthcoming Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up
“Every essay in this book is a gem of science writing on its highest level--accurate, up to date, brimming with surprising information, deep insights, and a profound love of mathematics. Its scope is awesome. Topics include a fantastic clock in Strasbourg, randomness, poverty, war, geology, genetics, gear ratios, partitions, nomenclature, group theory, and the ambiguity of the equals sign. There isn't a dull page in the book.” Martin Gardner, author of The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems and more than 60 other titles
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 6.63(w) x 8.96(h) x 1.12(d)
Meet the Author
Brian Hayes writes the "Computing Science" column for American Scientist magazine, where he is a former editor in chief. His previous book is Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape.
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A nice little book that makes the results of a handful of topics from applied mathematics and statistics accessible to the general public. The more advanced student of science or mathematics will find the text pretty much devoid of mathematical rigor, but that is what makes the book accessible to the generalist. You might not be able to apply the results of any of the items discussed in this book to your everyday life, but it will at least get you think. I can pretty much guarantee that you will learn something interesting from this book. And heaven forbid, you might even do a few hand calculations (no!) or a create a simple computer model (gasp!). I did all of the above, and that is more than most books ever do.