A Cultural Paradox: Fun in Mathematics by Jeffrey A Zilahy is a great book. It’s unique and it’s very well done. And the title turns out to be true – mathematics actually is fun. Well, at least in this author’s hands. He has an engaging style of writing and a great sense of humour. We have several pages of maths jokes, and a photo of Kurt Gödel, who contributed greatly to removing uncertainty from mathematics, is labelled as ‘Probably a photo of Kurt Gödel’. Even the publication date is given in binary code! Each chapter is a brief conversation on a certain topic, such as pi, probability, statistics, the birthday paradox, the New Kind of Science, various mathematicians, zero and binary numbers. We also look at the mathematics of spaghetti and meet undercover mathematicians such as Art Garfunkel and Brian May.

Many people are at worst scared and at best suspicious of advanced maths and maths theories. This books shows us in a very approachable style what they’re really about and how they’re not actually as awful as they sound. They’re put into a familiar context and explained in ways we can understand. The book is well laid out and the subject matter clearly presented. It makes for a fascinating and educational read. My only complaint, as a European, is that it’s very much slanted to the American market. A Cultural Paradox is quirky, entertaining, well explained and interesting. And it has an index, which is something very non-fiction book should. 11 cheers for the author (that’s three in binary!).

You can download it for free here http://www.free-ebooks.net/ebook/A-Cultural-Paradox-Fun-in-Mathematics

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