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Numbers have fascinated people for centuries. They are familiar to everyone, forming a central pillar of our understanding of the world, yet the number system was not presented to us "gift-wrapped" but, rather, was developed over millennia. Today, despite all this development, it remains true that a child may ask a question about numbers that no one can answer. Many unsolved problems surrounding number matters appear as quirky oddities of little account while others are holding up fundamental progress in mainstream mathematics.
Peter Higgins distills centuries of work into one delightful narrative that celebrates the mystery of numbers and explains how different kinds of numbers arose and why they are useful. Full of historical snippets and interesting examples, the book ranges from simple number puzzles and magic tricks, to showing how ideas about numbers relate to real-world problems, such as: How are our bank account details kept secure when shopping over the internet? What are the chances of winning at Russian roulette; or of being dealt a flush in a poker hand?
This fascinating book will inspire and entertain readers across a range of abilities. Easy material is blended with more challenging ideas about infinity and complex numbers, and a final chapter "For Connoisseurs" works through some of the particular claims and examples in the book in mathematical language for those who appreciate a complete explanation.
As our understanding of numbers continues to evolve, this book invites us to rediscover the mystery and beauty of numbers and reminds us that the story of numbers is a tale with a long way to run...
"The target reader of this book is a senior high school student. It is well suited to such an audience; indeed, it is exactly the sort of work I would myself have devoured some 50+ years ago. … The different topics treated are all described exactly and succinctly." (Michael A. B. Deakin, Mathematical Reviews, Issue 2008 j)
“The author gives a history of the development of numbers including the natural numbers, the rational numbers, the real numbers and the complex numbers. The text is written at a level appropriate for any educated person. Throughout the text the reasons for the development of various numbers are given along with a historical view of the intuitive struggles with these new ideas.” (Steven T. Dougherty, Zentralblatt MATH, Vol. 1188, 2010)
Preface; The First Numbers; Discovering Numbers; Some Number Tricks; Some Tricky Numbers; Some Useful Numbers; On the Trail of New Numbers; Glimpses of Infinity; Applications of Number: Chance; The Complex History of the Imaginary; From Imaginary to Complex; The Number Line Under the Miscroscope; Applications of Number: Codes and Public Key Cryptography; For Connoisseurs; Further Reading.- Index