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Alex's Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the Wonderful World of Mathematics Hardcover – 5 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st edition (5 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747597162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747597162
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.9 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 105,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

In a charming, conversational prose style, and with diagrams to ease brain stress, he draws us into a forbidding world, often going into the history of famous bits of maths, including the origins of Tetris and Rubik's Cube.

The most immediately fascinating chapter is on the application of probability theory to gambling, with insights into slot machines, insurance, lotteries and a neat explanation of Pascal's wager on the existence of God. --Metro

What Bellos calls "the wow factor" of mathematics leaps out at the reader from every page ... The stories prove so engaging, the personalities so colorful, that readers may forget
they are mastering some powerful mathematical concepts. --Booklist

`A mathematical wonder that will leave you hooked on numbers' --Daily Telegraph

`Spectacularly successful introduction to the excitement and wonder of mathematics.' --Sunday Times

`He renders the world of numbers accessible and captivating' --Daily Express

`A truly marvellous survey of modern mathematics' --Martin Gardner, for more than 25 years author of the 'Mathematical Games' column in Scientific American

`An unforgettable journey of intellectual discovery'
--Apostolos Doxiadis, author of Logicomix and Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture

Starting with chapter zero, all twelve chapters are a fascinating exploration of the wonders of maths.
--City A.M Newspaper

Book Description

The Sunday Times bestseller
Shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 151 people found the following review helpful By A customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mathematics gets a bad press in school and elsewhere, characterized as dry and difficult ,is one of the most hated topics in a student can read. But for Alex Bellos math can be inspiring and brilliantly creative and he proves it in this book that can be read easily by most non-geeks.

Mathematical thought is one of the great achievements of the human race, and arguably the foundation of all human progress. The world of mathematics is a remarkable place.

Exploring the mysteries of randomness, he explains why it is impossible for our iPods to randomly select songs. In probing the many intrigues of that most beloved of numbers, pi, he visits with two brothers so obsessed with the elusive number that they built a supercomputer in their Manhattan apartment to study it.

Bellos has traveled all around the globe and has plunged into history to uncover fascinating stories of mathematical achievement, from the breakthroughs of Euclid, the greatest mathematician of all time, to the creations of the Zen master of origami, one of the hottest areas of mathematical work today.From the Amazon forest he tells the story of a tribe there who can count only to five and reports on the latest findings about the math instinct and also the revelation that ants can actually count how many steps they've taken.In India he finds the brilliant mathematical insights of the Buddha and in Japan he visits the creator of Sudoku and explores the delights of mathematical games.

Whether writing about how algebra solved Swedish traffic problems, visiting the Mental Calculation World Cup to disclose the secrets of lightning calculation, or exploring the links between pineapples and beautiful teeth, Bellos is a wonderfully engaging guide who never fails to delight even as he edifies. Here's Looking at Euclid is a rare gem that brings the beauty of math to life.
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Chris Houston on 3 May 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I've just finished reading the Kindle edition of this book and really enjoyed it, but just had to comment on the slap-dash approach to the reproductions of most of the maths and equations in it.

Wherever a fraction is used in text, it's set in a minuscule font that most of the time is impossible to read. Similarly many of the more esoteric characters used when discussing alternate number systems or concepts are represented by tiny grey smudges.

Where longer equations are reproduced, they are often typo-riddled, or inconsistently transcribed. Sometimes powers are raised above the line, other times they're just a standard numeral. At other times the typos go beyond simple typographic quirks to the point of making the equations just plain wrong. Amusingly, throughout the book it insists that the symbol for infinity is "8".

I highly recommend the book, but if you're at all interested in the numbers you'll probably enjoy a paper version more.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Mack on 16 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am a non-mathematician but have a keen interest in it, and as such have read many books on the subject. This book is by far the most interesting and entertaining I have come across. The writing is clear and non-academic without being condescending. The author has a very easy pleasant style, erudite while still being amusing. If you have any interest in Mathematics this book is a must. Even if your interest is slight this book may convert you entirely. Obviously I can't speak as an expert but I'm convinced even they will find many delightful surprises here.
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111 of 116 people found the following review helpful By H. Gareth Ff Roberts on 21 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
`Alex's Adventures in Numberland' is a delightful cornucopia of stories and insights into the history and development of mathematical ideas. Peppered with wit and written with great charm, it sweeps the reader along in its exploration of the weird and wonderful world of mathematical abstractions, old and new. The narrative is greatly helped by the author's journalistic experience and his ability to use historical settings to draw the reader in to what may otherwise appear to be some tricky mathematics. The story is given a human face by the many anecdotes based on Alex's visits to talk with mathematicians across the globe, giving the book the feel of a travelogue, reflecting the best of travel writers such as William Dalrymple. Much is packed in to the 400 pages and the occasional disappointment that some of one's own favourite snippets and characters are omitted is more than compensated for by the exhilaration of the journey. A real page turner!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rob Sawyer on 16 Aug 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found Simon Singh's 'Fermat's Last Theorem' a bit of a page turner which either makes me a right saddo or an intellectual genius. When I saw this book on one of my frequent browses I thought that sounds right up my street so bought it (it had good reviews).

Absolutely loved it, it is a romp through the history of maths in bite sized chunks which investigate certain aspects, e.g. sequences etc.

That man Euler was a genius wasn't he?

Alex Bellos has a very good way of writing, easy to read and sprinkled, sparingly, with a bit of humour too - thoroughly enjoyable. I'll even forgive him for saying 'math' once (well twice if you include a quote but that was from an American and we all know they can't speak English) and a typo in the logarithms section (can you spot it?).

Well done on an excellent book.
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