This number of the All Squared podcast contains the final third of our interview with the inestimable David Singmaster, and then a bit from CP about his favourite book, “A treatise on practical arithmetic, with book-keeping by single entry“, by William Tinwell.
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Good maths books are simultaneously plentiful and rare. While there are a few classics almost everyone knows about and has copies of (Gardner, Hardy, etc.), the trade in lesser-known maths books is considerably less well-organised. Very few bookshops have well-stocked maths sections, and insipid pop maths books dominate. Unless you hear about a good maths book through word of mouth, you’ll often only encounter it once it’s ended up in a second-hand bookshop, usually a refugee from an emptied maths department library.
But books, more than anything else, are where the beauty of maths really manifests itself. It’s where ideas are presented most clearly, after they’ve had time to percolate through a few more brains. We talked to David Singmaster, professor of maths and metagrobologist, about his favourite maths books.
Steven Strogatz has written a book based on his series of columns for the New York Times, The Elements of Math. The book’s called The Joy of $x$, and Steven’s recorded a trailer for it. I bet he hopes the trailer will convince you to buy the book.
The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012 was released last week. Now that Princeton’s web servers have been dried out after Hurricane Sandy’s visit, I can give you its blurb:
This annual anthology brings together the year’s finest mathematics writing from around the world. Featuring promising new voices alongside some of the foremost names in the field, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012 makes available to a wide audience many articles not easily found anywhere else–and you don’t need to be a mathematician to enjoy them. These writings offer surprising insights into the nature, meaning, and practice of mathematics today. They delve into the history, philosophy, teaching, and everyday occurrences of math, and take readers behind the scenes of today’s hottest mathematical debates. Here Robert Lang explains mathematical aspects of origami foldings; Terence Tao discusses the frequency and distribution of the prime numbers; Timothy Gowers and Mario Livio ponder whether mathematics is invented or discovered; Brian Hayes describes what is special about a ball in five dimensions; Mark Colyvan glosses on the mathematics of dating; and much, much more.
The “much, much more” alluded to above includes our very own Peter Rowlett’s collection of essays “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, which was published in Nature last year. And at only £13.95, just £1.95 more than what Nature is asking for Peter’s article alone, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012 is a steal.
The Best Writing on Mathematics 2012 at Princeton University Press. $19.95/£13.95 in paperback or ebook.
The Bookseller have announced that Penguin Press have bought the rights to a book by Matt Parker. Things To Make And Do In The Fourth Dimension is pitched as
an alternative maths lesson, with activities and thought experiments helping people go beyond the classroom to make calculators out of dominoes and see what soap bubbles have to do with calculus.
I like the sound of “a nine-publisher auction, where all bids were made in prime numbers, numbers derived from pi, and other mathematical figures.”
Matt Parker said to The Aperiodical, “I’m very proud to be writing a book; I think books are really the technology of the future. I see a lot of promise in this whole written-word field.”
Source: Penguin beats nine to Parker book.
I was going to save this for an Aperiodical Round Up but it’s such a good thing I thought I’d post it straight away. Project Gutenberg has moved on from offering just plain-text transcriptions of books: volunteers have been outstandingly generous with their time and produced LaTeX versions of many maths books, producing versions that are considerably more readable and resemble the original editions much more closely.
Not all the books in that list have been converted to LaTeX yet. Of those that have, GH Hardy’s A Course of Pure Mathematics leaps out as a good place to start. Compare it with this book still in HTML format to see the difference.
Barry Cooper, Professor of Pure Mathematics at Leeds and Chair of the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee, writes in the Guardian a personal account of an interest in Turing and his efforts to get the limited edition biography written by Turing’s mother Sara republished.
Written from a mother’s viewpoint, Sara provides a unique insight into the early years of Turing, with candid descriptions such as, “In dress and habits he tended to be slovenly. His hair was usually too long, with an overhanging lock which he would toss back with a jerk of his head.” But the book is full of brilliant treasures, anecdotal accounts of Turing’s eccentricity and genius, and insights into his science.
Source: De-coding the Turing family.