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First-rate all the way through. 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.
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There isn't a dull page in the book. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X. Return to Book Page. Here he offers us a selection of his most memorable and accessible pieces--including "Clock of Ages"--embellishing them with an overall, scene-setting preface, reconfigured illustrations, and a refreshingly self-critical "Afterthoughts" section appended to each essay.
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To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. The twelve essays in this book were first published in American Scientist, the "magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society".
The collection comes with the requisite dustjacket hype by Martin Gardner each essay is a gem of science writing at its highest level , as well as a more ambiguous commendation by someone called Sarah Lippincott if you love numbers, grids and graphs, you'll love this book. In the book's preface, Hayes treats us to a display of faux-humility "Aw shucks, I The twelve essays in this book were first published in American Scientist, the "magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society". In the book's preface, Hayes treats us to a display of faux-humility "Aw shucks, I'm not qualified" which is striking only for its transparent insincerity.
On balance, I'd have to agree with his assessment - it's not clear exactly what his qualifications are.
Group Theory in the Bedroom
But the word that comes to mind to describe the majority of these essays is 'woolly-headed' - there is a rambling, unfocused quality to them that leaves the reader questioning the time invested in reading them. An exception to this criticism is the essay on the genetic code. Hayes's riff on the problem of mattress-flipping and its link to the Klein 4-group is imaginative and entertaining.
Essays on the astronomical clock at Strasbourg and on the kinds of gear problems faced by watchmakers might appeal to some, but my pathological aversion to all things mechanical caused my eyes to glaze over pretty early on. I found Hayes's ruminations on randomness, economics, and "the statistics of warfare" particularly weak - neither focused nor rigorous.
Essays on the use of base 3, the meaning of identity and issues of nomenclature were coherent but uninspiring. Two superior essays out of twelve seems a little disappointing, which is why I give this collection only two stars. To be fair, if my training had been in computer science, rather than in mathematics, I might have viewed these essays differently View 1 comment.
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Jun 04, Angela rated it liked it Recommended to Angela by: Brent. A fun, light read passed along from Brent. The mathematics described here aren't very complicated, and mainly it is interesting for its philosophical ponderings over things like how long a programmer should assume his or her code will be used, or the meaning of sameness or measuring the quality of randomness. If I could make one improvement to the book it would be to add more math to it!
I was very intrigued by the articles on gears and mechanical computation and would love to read more about the A fun, light read passed along from Brent. I was very intrigued by the articles on gears and mechanical computation and would love to read more about the nitty gritty workings of that. Mar 06, Wanda rated it really liked it. This is a fantastic collection of mathematical and computing curio, which is accessible enough for the layperson but still contains enough technical detail to allude to the full extent of the rigour required for proof.
These articles touched on topics in pure math which have always been dear to my heart, namely number theory, group t This is a fantastic collection of mathematical and computing curio, which is accessible enough for the layperson but still contains enough technical detail to allude to the full extent of the rigour required for proof.
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I especially appreciated the afterwords, which included some minor corrections, but also some fascinating facts presented by readers of the column. These appended sections never failed to expound upon some new facet of the original topic, and further enhanced my engagement with each chapter. The conversational style of this book is very approachable, although it might sometimes be necessary to look up additional facts sometimes on Math Exchange etc.
I am definitely interested in revisiting this book to try my hand at some of the computational experimentation that Hayes performed to support his writing! Oct 08, Dwight Penny rated it liked it. Brian Hayes is a computer programmer who wrote these articles for a column in American Scientist magazine from the 's. Each essay invites the reader into a thought experiment or presents a bit of history behind a mathematical concept or application.
Some are trivial, such as the mattress flipping algorithm that is behind the title. Some have more profound social significance, such as the the overview of Lewis Fry Richardson's study of the "The Statistics of Deadly Quarrels", an attempt to tally and comprehend mathematically the impact of crime, rebellion and wars on humankind.
Another walked the reader through "Molecular Economics", which used a simple probabilistic model to suggest that the tendency of the free market is to consolidate money into the hands of the wealthy in the way that rain trickles down to the oceans.
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If I've got it right, the enormous big new book by Thomas Picketty essentially boils down to that although he used history and statistics to make his point. Other chapters, especially the ones about the ancient craft of designing clocks and gears, actually echoed around very nicely with some things I've been doing at work trying to understand complex time schedules and repeating events. I'm not a mathematical guy. Any mathematical operator more arcane than an exponent will make my eyes glaze over. I'm probably very close to the target audience for this book, and it worked.
It clicked. I only gave it three stars, however.