Lopping Leap Years, Sexy Primes, and Bible Codes: Reminders That Mathematics Is Everywhere

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Reviews the book, The Secret Life of Numbers: 50 Easy Pieces on How Mathematicians Work and Think by George G. Szpiro (see record 2006-13235-000). The strength of this book is that it proved the reviewer wrong about his own interest in mathematics. Organized into a series of very brief and broad-ranging topics (including those in the title of this review) and based on articles written by Szpiro specifically for a monthly newspaper column about mathematics, the book was immediately engaging. The reviewer had no problem seeing links between many of the topics that were nicely described by the author and a range of areas of psychology. The author's goal is to present the subject of mathematics as something other than “dry as a bone,” and he has accomplished that goal. The book provides an accessible series of stories about historical issues pertaining to major mathematical theories, intriguing insights into some of the leading mathematicians of the past and present, and correspondences between real-world problems and phenomena known to all of us but rarely outlined in mathematical terms. Many of the chapters focus on issues of historical interest with regard to solutions (or failed solutions) for famous mathematical problems, and other chapters offer interesting insights into mathematicians themselves. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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