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Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions


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About 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.


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.-Denise Dayton, Jaffrey Grade Sch., NH Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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 Sciences and 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.

"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

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