Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks

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Overview

"Finally a book that celebrates the math involved in magic. This is quite simply the most brilliant book ever written on this mind-blowing, highly secretive field."—David Blaine, illusionist

"A remarkably appealing concoction of conjuring, invention, education, science, homage, and memoir—it is like no other book in the long history of magic."—Ricky Jay, author, actor, and one of the world's best sleight-of-hand artists

"A truly stunning exposition by two masters in the field. Diaconis and Graham trace the fascinating relationship between mathematics and magic, which goes back at least eight hundred years. Nothing like this has been published before. Magical Mathematics is a huge contribution both to magic and mathematics."—Colm Mulcahy, author of Card Colm, an online column hosted by the Mathematical Association of America

"Magical Mathematics is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers, and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject."—Arthur Benjamin, coauthor of Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

"This is a wonderful book, unique and engaging. Diaconis and Graham manage to convey the awe and marvels of mathematics, and of magic tricks, especially those that depend fundamentally on mathematical ideas. They range over many delicious topics, giving us an enchanting personal view of the history and practice of magic, of mathematics, and of the fascinating connection between the two cultures. Magical Mathematics will have an utterly devoted readership."—Barry Mazur, author of Imagining Numbers: (particularly the square root of minus fifteen)

"Magical Mathematics is a wonder to behold. It instantly seduces the reader with goodies new and old, and is just as perfect for long-term study. There are also surprises for those well familiar with the magical realm."—Robert E. Neale, magician

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
[F]ascinating. . . . Magical Mathematics [is] a dazzling tour of math-based magic tricks. . . . Lovers of recreational mathematics, and especially fans of the late Martin Gardner, who contributed the foreword, will find many pleasures in Magical Mathematics. And while exposing magic secrets in a book intended for the general public may raise hackles among some old-guard magicians, exploring the math behind these tricks will, in truth, only deepen the mystery. For, as the authors remind us, sometimes the methods are as magical as the tricks themselves.
— Alex Stone
Scientific American
The Riemann hypothesis, the Mandelbrot set, Fermat's last theorem—these mathematical notions and others underlie all manner of magic tricks. Mathematicians Persi Diaconis—also a card magician—and Ron Graham—also a juggler—unveil the connections between magic and math in this well-illustrated volume.
GENII: The Conjurors' Magazine
Writing for the public, the two authors share their passions, teaching sophisticated mathematical concepts along with interesting card tricks, which rely upon those principles for their workings.
Math Less Traveled Blog
[I]t is simply a beautiful book. The design, layout, typography, even the paper is beautiful. . . . [T]his is one of the most fun, engaging new popular mathematics books I've seen in a long time.
the-Knot blog
The authors are master storytellers. . . . [T]he authors offer advice and recommendations for further pursuits in mathematics, magic and juggling.
Montreal Gazette
Magical Mathematics gives readers a peek behind the velvet curtain that hides the magician's secrets. . . . The book covers some nifty card tricks, juggling, codes and a slew of mind-bending puzzles. The book doesn't just tell you how to fool and impress your friends with parlour tricks, it explains why these tricks work, so that you can go on to devise your own—in fact, the authors challenge you to do just that. The writing is lively and the tricks are well set-up, providing newbie magicians with both points of view: what the audience sees and what the magician knows.
d About Math blog

Magical Mathematics is an absolutely remarkable book. I don't say this lightly. Publishers send me plenty of books to review. Some I like more than others. Magical Mathematics is a fantastic book for someone who wants to explore the non-trivial math behind some impressive magic tricks. While I enjoy purely recreational math puzzles that have no practical application I also love it when I discover challenges that are interesting and relevant. Magical Mathematics is chock full of fun (and deep) challenges that students (and adults) can sink their teeth into.
Times Higher Education Supplement
Over 12 chapters, the reader is taken on a unique and wonderful tour that fuses magical tricks with underlying mathematical explanations and personal stories, written by world-renowned experts in both fields. With its friendly, disarming style, the book is pitched perfectly at a level that will surprise both the hardened mathematical researcher and the interested general reader, without putting either of them off. . . . [T]his book is a must-buy.
— C.J. Howls
Games
The first chapter of this book begins by teaching a simple four-card trick and ends by presenting—complete with step-by-step color illustrations—a more complicated card trick that will truly amaze any audience. Both tricks are based on mathematical principles, and the book goes on to explain these and many other principles that can be the basis for a variety of clever magic tricks.
Science News
Learn the secrets behind card tricks, including step-by-step instructions for performing them, along with the mathematical ideas the tricks illustrate.
Magicol
As magic books go, Magical Mathematics is erudite, thought provoking, inspiring. . . . It is the product of multiple decades of work and research, and for a small subset of magic enthusiasts it could rank as the best book they buy this decade.
— James Alan
Magic
There is so much to digest in this book that it is impossible to describe even a fraction of it in just a few paragraphs. Let it suffice to say that if you are at all interested in card magic principles, how they work, why they work, and the history behind them, to ignore this book would be a serious mistake.
— Peter Duffie
San Jose Mercury News
From arcane theories to practical tips for working magicians, the authors go behind the curtain and reveal how the pros do it.
Nature Physics
The connection between magic and mathematics has a long and intriguing history, and throughout their book Diaconis and Graham present detailed and fascinating insight into that history. . . . Overall, the book is a wonderful introduction to this esoteric area, but has more than enough depth to entertain and enlighten the knowledgeable. Perhaps most important of all, it shows how deconstructing illusion can provide fascinating insight in the nature of reality.
— Richard Wiseman
Choice
Magical Mathematics strikes a nice balance between descriptions of performable magic tricks and the mathematics that makes them work. Unlike some 'mathemagic' books, in this work, Diaconis and Graham describe magic tricks that are actually used by professionals. . . . [T]he writing is engaging, and learning the tricks that are presented is well worth the effort. . . . This volume should find a place in any mathematics or magic library collection.
Current Science
While turning the last pages, the reader is bound to feel touched and charged up and would definitely be moving in an altered direction, for this is a book that will not just leave an impression, but will also suggest which path to take next.
— Shubashree Desikan
GENII: The Conjurors' Magazine

Writing for the public, the two authors share their passions, teaching sophisticated mathematical concepts along with interesting card tricks, which rely upon those principles for their workings.
Wild About Math blog
Magical Mathematics is an absolutely remarkable book. I don't say this lightly. Publishers send me plenty of books to review. Some I like more than others. Magical Mathematics is a fantastic book for someone who wants to explore the non-trivial math behind some impressive magic tricks. While I enjoy purely recreational math puzzles that have no practical application I also love it when I discover challenges that are interesting and relevant. Magical Mathematics is chock full of fun (and deep) challenges that students (and adults) can sink their teeth into.
Mathematical Reviews
Reading Magical Mathematics . . . had . . . [a] powerful effect on me. I was transported to a strange and shadowy world of card tricks and magic that, at the same time, was miraculously a land of mathematics, a land with substance. . . . Barely ten pages into the book I am completely hooked.
— John J Watkins
Irish Mathematical Society Bulletin
The authors have produced an invaluable contribution to the fascinating relationship between magic and mathematics. . . . The authors exhibit a lifelong passion, enthusiasm and deep knowledge for magic and mathematics and this is an ideal combination for producing a great read. . . . I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the mathematics behind some impressive magic.
— Fiacre O. Cairbre
SIAM
Mathematical Magic is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject.
— Arthur Benjamin
Leonardo Reviews
This is a splendid book with lots of wonderful insights. . . . Give this book a try; you certainly will not be disappointed.
— Phil Dyke
MagicBookReviews.com
While there are other books out there detailing the relationship between mathematics and magic, this book is perhaps the best written of them all, as it will appeal to magicians, math buffs and general readers alike.
— R. S. Beer
Wall Street Journal - Alex Stone
[F]ascinating. . . . Magical Mathematics [is] a dazzling tour of math-based magic tricks. . . . Lovers of recreational mathematics, and especially fans of the late Martin Gardner, who contributed the foreword, will find many pleasures in Magical Mathematics. And while exposing magic secrets in a book intended for the general public may raise hackles among some old-guard magicians, exploring the math behind these tricks will, in truth, only deepen the mystery. For, as the authors remind us, sometimes the methods are as magical as the tricks themselves.
Times Higher Education Supplement - C.J. Howls
Over 12 chapters, the reader is taken on a unique and wonderful tour that fuses magical tricks with underlying mathematical explanations and personal stories, written by world-renowned experts in both fields. With its friendly, disarming style, the book is pitched perfectly at a level that will surprise both the hardened mathematical researcher and the interested general reader, without putting either of them off. . . . [T]his book is a must-buy.
Magicol - James Alan
As magic books go, Magical Mathematics is erudite, thought provoking, inspiring. . . . It is the product of multiple decades of work and research, and for a small subset of magic enthusiasts it could rank as the best book they buy this decade.
Magic - Peter Duffie
There is so much to digest in this book that it is impossible to describe even a fraction of it in just a few paragraphs. Let it suffice to say that if you are at all interested in card magic principles, how they work, why they work, and the history behind them, to ignore this book would be a serious mistake.
Nature Physics - Richard Wiseman
The connection between magic and mathematics has a long and intriguing history, and throughout their book Diaconis and Graham present detailed and fascinating insight into that history. . . . Overall, the book is a wonderful introduction to this esoteric area, but has more than enough depth to entertain and enlighten the knowledgeable. Perhaps most important of all, it shows how deconstructing illusion can provide fascinating insight in the nature of reality.
Current Science - Shubashree Desikan
While turning the last pages, the reader is bound to feel touched and charged up and would definitely be moving in an altered direction, for this is a book that will not just leave an impression, but will also suggest which path to take next.
Mathematical Reviews - John J Watkins
Reading Magical Mathematics . . . had . . . [a] powerful effect on me. I was transported to a strange and shadowy world of card tricks and magic that, at the same time, was miraculously a land of mathematics, a land with substance. . . . Barely ten pages into the book I am completely hooked.
Irish Mathematical Society Bulletin - Fiacre O. Cairbre
The authors have produced an invaluable contribution to the fascinating relationship between magic and mathematics. . . . The authors exhibit a lifelong passion, enthusiasm and deep knowledge for magic and mathematics and this is an ideal combination for producing a great read. . . . I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the mathematics behind some impressive magic.
SIAM - Arthur Benjamin
Mathematical Magic is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject.
Leonardo Reviews - Phil Dyke
This is a splendid book with lots of wonderful insights. . . . Give this book a try; you certainly will not be disappointed.
MagicBookReviews.com - R.S. Beer
While there are other books out there detailing the relationship between mathematics and magic, this book is perhaps the best written of them all, as it will appeal to magicians, math buffs and general readers alike.
-the-Knot blog
The authors are master storytellers. . . . [T]he authors offer advice and recommendations for further pursuits in mathematics, magic and juggling.
MagicBookReviews.com - R. S. Beer
While there are other books out there detailing the relationship between mathematics and magic, this book is perhaps the best written of them all, as it will appeal to magicians, math buffs and general readers alike.
Mathematical Reviews - John J. Watkins
Reading Magical Mathematics . . . had . . . [a] powerful effect on me. I was transported to a strange and shadowy world of card tricks and magic that, at the same time, was miraculously a land of mathematics, a land with substance. . . . Barely ten pages into the book I am completely hooked.
From the Publisher
"Mathematical Magic is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject."—Arthur Benjamin, SIAM

"This is a splendid book with lots of wonderful insights. . . . Give this book a try; you certainly will not be disappointed."—Phil Dyke, Leonardo Reviews

"While there are other books out there detailing the relationship between mathematics and magic, this book is perhaps the best written of them all, as it will appeal to magicians, math buffs and general readers alike."—R. S. Beer, MagicBookReviews.com

Library Journal
Well known and highly respected in the mathematical community, Diaconis (statistics & mathematics, Stanford Univ.) and Graham (computer science & engineering, Univ. of California, San Diego) have produced a work that completely lives up to expectations. It contains descriptions of magic tricks as viewed by an audience, the mathematics that make them possible, and clear explanations (including photographs) to help you—with a little practice—amaze your friends. The book also contains biographic and historic information about magic and magicians. A word of warning: this book is mostly free of the pages of abstruse algebraic formulas you may associate with mathematics, but some of the concepts discussed are far from simple to grasp. VERDICT As Martin Gardner's 1956–81 "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American proved, many people enjoy mathematical entertainment. This book should find a reception among them, along with anyone who likes being mystified by a magic trick and immediately wants to know how it's done.—Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll. of CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691151649
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/23/2011
  • Pages: 258
  • Sales rank: 362,961
  • Product dimensions: 9.72 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Persi Diaconis is professor of mathematics and statistics at Stanford University and a professional magician. Ron Graham is professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California, San Diego, and a professional juggler.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Preface xi

Chapter 1: Mathematics in the Air 1
Royal Hummer 8
Back to Magic 15

Chapter 2: In Cycles 17
The Magic of de Bruijn Sequences 18
Going Further 25

Chapter 3: Is This Stuff Actually Good For Anything? 30
Robotic Vision 30
Making Codes 34
To the Core of Our Being 38
This de Bruijn Stuff Is Cool but Can It Get You a Job? 42

Chapter 4: Universal Cycles 47
Order Matters 47
A Mind-reading Effect 52
Universal Cycles Again 55

Chapter 5: From the Gilbreath Principle to the Mandelbrot Set 61
The Gilbreath Principle 61
The Mandelbrot Set 72

Chapter 6: Neat Shuffles 84
A Mind-reading Computer 85
A Look Inside Perfect Shuffles 92
A Look Inside Monge and Milk Shuffles 96
A Look Inside Down-and-Under Shuffles 98
All the Shuffles Are Related 99

Chapter 7: The Oldest Mathematical Entertainment? 103
The Miracle Divination 105
How Many Magic Tricks Are There? 114

Chapter 8: Magic in the Book of Changes 119
Introduction to the Book of Changes 121
Using the I Ching for Divination 122
Probability and the Book of Changes 125
Some Magic (Tricks) 127
Probability and the I Ching 136

Chapter 9: What Goes Up Must Come Down 137
Writing It Down 138
Getting Started in Juggling 145 10 Stars of Mathematical Magic (and some of the best tricks in the book) 153
Alex Elmsley 156
Bob Neale 160
Henry Christ 173
Stewart James 181
Charles Thornton Jordan 189
Bob Hummer 201
Martin Gardner 211

Chapter 11: Going further 220
Chapter 12: on secrets 225
Notes 231
Index 239

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Card tricks based soley math formulas that will knock your socks Simple and sublime

    Card tricks and more based solely on math formulas that for the most part are easy to learn, and will knock the socks off your friends Get it and have some fun You don't need to know the math to make it work - but it's fun trying to understand the under- lying principle

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2012

    F

    D

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Rose

    Im on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

    Amber

    Kk...srry im taking so long to awnser im telling my bf bye b4 he goes to england for 15 days:( hes leaving n bout two hours

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

    To reading rebal

    You do know that everyone can still read this right. Because now everyone knows your password. Just sayin. Oh and btw i am not anybody pertending to be anybody so dont go all crazy.i am just a 15 year old girl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Reading rebal

    Hey guys whactha doing guys!

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