When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations about This and That

Overview

Best known as the longtime writer of the Mathematical Games column for Scientific American—which introduced generations of readers to the joys of recreational mathematics—Martin Gardner has for decades pursued a parallel career as a devastatingly effective debunker of what he once famously dubbed “fads and fallacies in the name of science.” It is mainly in this latter role that he is onstage in this collection of choice essays.

When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish takes aim ...

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When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations About This and That

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Overview

Best known as the longtime writer of the Mathematical Games column for Scientific American—which introduced generations of readers to the joys of recreational mathematics—Martin Gardner has for decades pursued a parallel career as a devastatingly effective debunker of what he once famously dubbed “fads and fallacies in the name of science.” It is mainly in this latter role that he is onstage in this collection of choice essays.

When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish takes aim at a gallery of amusing targets, ranging from Ann Coulter’s qualifications as an evolutionary biologist to the logical fallacies of precognition and extrasensory perception, from Santa Claus to The Wizard of Oz, from mutilated chessboards to the little-known “one-poem poet” Langdon Smith (the original author of this volume’s title line). The writings assembled here fall naturally into seven broad categories: Science, Bogus Science, Mathematics, Logic, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and Politics. Under each heading, Gardner displays an awesome level of erudition combined with a wicked sense of humor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Smart, witty essays on science and culture.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

“Martin Gardner is indispensable. Here’s the perfect introduction to the range of his obsessions—from Ann Coulter to the Wizard of Oz. With Gardner, the exercise of reason and taste is always a virtuoso performance.” —William Poundstone, bestselling author of 12 books, including the forthcoming Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)

“Martin Gardner keeps knocking my socks off. After all these years, I thought I knew his work inside and out, but this latest collection is full of surprises. Alongside some Gardner classics (a celebration of the Fibonacci numbers, a debunking of parapsychology) we are treated to essays on Santa Claus, the sinking of the Titanic, and a ‘one-poem poet’ who turned the evolution of life on earth into a love story.” —Brain Hayes, author of Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions

“Another provocative set of debunking essays from Mr. Gardner. Golden oldies, platinum perennials, contemporary cuties—however characterized, the pieces reveal once again the limpidity of his thought and the engagingness of his prose. Good stuff!” —John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy and Irreligion

“From Ann Coulter to the Anthropic Principle, Martin Gardner is a magician’s magician, opening our minds to the crazy world around us. These essays are fun to read, and have deep roots and pointers to follow if you want to know more.” —Persi Diaconis, Stanford University

Michael Dirda
If you're already addicted to Martin Gardner's plain prose, gentle, reasonable voice, exhaustive research and relentless logic, you will want to add this book to your collection…While [he] has always called himself "strictly a journalist," he should really be honored as one of this country's greatest cultural treasures.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
With more than 70 books to his credit, Gardner remains thoroughly enjoyable to read. This latest is a collection of 24 articles, book reviews and other pieces on subjects like science, bogus science, mathematics, logic, literature, religion and politics. The range demonstrates that Gardner should be well-known for more than his remarkable “Mathematical Games” column published for 25 years in Scientific American. Gardner is a debunker who begs folks to think critically and carefully, usually doing so himself with wit and wisdom. He takes on Ann Coulter for her pronouncements on intelligent design and those who claim the sinking of the Titanic was foretold by numerous people. He is most personal in the book's longest piece, “Why I Am Not an Atheist,” in which he explores the nature of belief. His essays on The Wizard of Oz, Santa Claus and the book's eponymous poem on evolution by Langdon Smith are of a different genre than the rest, but no less interesting. Least compelling in such a general collection are the somewhat pedantic mathematical explorations. The collection represents Gardner at his best. (Oct. 21)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809087372
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Gardner is the author of more than seventy books, as well as countless magazine articles and other shorter works. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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