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The Number Mysteries: A Mathematical Odyssey through Everyday Life [Kindle Edition]

Marcus du Sautoy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the author of The Music of the Primes and Finding Moonshine comes a short, lively book on five mathematical problems that just refuse be solved – and on how many everyday problems can be solved by maths.

Every time we download a song from i-tunes, take a flight across the Atlantic or talk on our mobile phones, we are relying on great mathematical inventions. Maths may fail to provide answers to various of its own problems, but it can provide answers to problems that don't seem to be its own – how prime numbers are the key to Real Madrid's success, to secrets on the Internet and to the survival of insects in the forests of North America.

In The Num8er My5teries, Marcus du Sautoy explains how to fake a Jackson Pollock; how to work out whether or not the universe has a hole in the middle of it; how to make the world's roundest football. He shows us how to see shapes in four dimensions – and how maths makes you a better gambler. He tells us about the quest to predict the future – from the flight of asteroids to an impending storm, from bending a ball like Beckham to predicting population growth.

It's a book to dip in to; a book to challenge and puzzle – and a book that gives us answers.



Product Description

Review

'Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford university maths professor and holder of the Simonyi chair for the public understanding of science…digs up the unusual places where maths lurks in the real world…it's a hard task making the world of maths accessible and intriguing to the general public…Du Sautoy manages it well…covering everything from internet credit-card security to the maths behind making the roundest football, he builds a persuasive case for how relevant these mathematical mysteries are to our everyday lives' Sunday Times

Praise for ‘Finding Moonshine’:

‘If you don't experience a thrill of foreboding as du Sautoy ventures into this twilit territory, nothing in maths will be for you. Even if the thought of sitting down to a quintic equation makes you want to cry, it would still be hard to resist Moonshine's cocktail of anecdote, swashbuckling potted history and haphazard self-revelation. The moments of autobiographical intimacy bring the book to life…a joy.' Daily Telegraph

'Mesmerising…articulate, fluent, funny and personable, [du Sautoy] is also absolutely passionate about mathematics, with a burning desire to make the rest of us as excited as he is about its problems, its patterns and its beauty. He captures for us with brilliant vividness the excitement of the pursuit of a solution to a difficult problem.' Lisa Jardine, Sunday Times

Review

'Careful now! This book may trick you into learning something. Warning! Don't start reading this unless you have something to scribble on. Someday all maths will be taught like this. If Maths is the Queen of Sciences, this is her with her petticoats undone' Dara O'Briain 'Mind-bending, fascinating and useful too. Maths didn't used to be this much fun.' Alan Davies 'A distinguished biologist and I were being escorted through the Panama jungle by an enthusiastic field worker, when the great man whispered to me, "What a joy to be shown around by a man who really loves his animals." The joke was that that man's animals were plants. Numbers are Marcus du Sautoy's animals, and his love for them glows on every page. Marcus du Sautoy is the Steve Irwin of the number kingdom.' Richard Dawkins 'This book has interesting puzzles to solve, fun maths to do, and much, much more!!!' Sean White, aged 8 'Careful now! This book may trick you into learning something. Warning! Don't start reading this unless you have something to scribble on. Someday all maths will be taught like this. If Maths is the Queen of Sciences, this is her with her petticoats undone' Dara O'Briain 'Mind-bending, fascinating and useful too. Maths didn't used to be this much fun.' Alan Davies 'A distinguished biologist and I were being escorted through the Panama jungle by an enthusiastic field worker, when the great man whispered to me, "What a joy to be shown around by a man who really loves his animals." The joke was that that man's animals were plants. Numbers are Marcus du Sautoy's animals, and his love for them glows on every page. Marcus du Sautoy is the Steve Irwin of the number kingdom.' Richard Dawkins 'This book has interesting puzzles to solve, fun maths to do, and much, much more!!!' Sean White, aged 8

Product details


More About the Author

Marcus du Sautoy has been named by the Independent on Sunday as one of the UK's leading scientists, has written extensively for the Guardian, The Times and the Daily Telegraph and has appeared on Radio 4 on numerous occasions. In 2008 he was appointed to Oxford University's prestigious professorship as the Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science, a post previously held by Richard Dawkins

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about numbers 7 Mar. 2011
By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I have previously read and reviewed Rob Eastaway's books Why Do Buses Come in Threes? and How Long Is a Piece of String? on The hidden mathematics of everyday life, but although I've been aware of Marcus Du Sautoy's books for some time, this is the first I've actually bought and read. While his approach is different from Rob's, Marcus also has a way of explaining mathematics such that it can appeal to the wider public. The book is divided into five chapters, the basic themes being prime numbers, geometric shapes, winning streaks, coded information and predicting the future.

Perhaps the most amusing subject in the first chapter is the life-cycle of cicadas, which are apparently 7, 13 or 17 years in duration, depending on the species. The author suggests this cycle using one of three prime numbers may be a way of discouraging predators, but as he`s a mathematician rather than a biologist, I won`t assume that although it sounds plausible.

Sometimes the author strays from the chapter heading but that's no problem. For example, the first chapter discusses Fibonacci numbers (and the inevitable example of breeding rabbits) as well as prime numbers. Another off-topic digression that I found interesting was the author's discussion of the early number systems developed by ancient civilizations.

The chapter on geometric shapes is another fascinating chapter, discussing the shapes of footballs, teabags, snowflakes, coastlines, viruses and abstract paintings among other things. Golf balls aren't featured here; they come later in the book.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The maths book people read for fun 9 Oct. 2010
Format:Hardcover
My husband has been going to bed early to "read my maths book" since my mother-in-law bought The Number Mysteries for his birthday. And he's been passing on some of the most fascinating little factoids to the seven-year-old: bubbles are lazy; the Babylonians counted in 60s on their fingers; the best footballers have prime numbers on their backs. Turns out maths is fun - who knew?
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decod1ng the My5tery 6 Dec. 2010
Format:Hardcover
It's a bit hard to review this book without having in mind Alex's Adventures in Numberland, published in the same year. Both books cover similar ground, although the approaches differ greatly. Whereas Alex Bellos travelled and spoke to various people who had a particular passion for certain aspects of mathematics or numbers, du Sautoy's book has the distinct feeling to it that he just sat down and wrote most of it straight out of what was in his own head. The ending of the book somewhat confirms this, as he states the book came out of his giving the Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 2006, and a few other projects he had previously worked on.

The book is broken down very simply into just 5 chapters, each with a basic premise to be looked at. But here, du Sautoy's passion for mathematics breaks through and he veers wildly off course and looks down a few sidestreets along the way. So if you pick a point about three-quarters of the way through each chapter, whatever is being discussed may not seem to have an immediate connection to what the chapter started out talking about. But this is not a criticism; merely a point of observation. It may not be to some people's liking, though I think it adds to the charm of the book.

Consistent with the philosophy of most mathematicians, du Sautoy believes that the joy in maths is to be found in doing it for oneself, not merely in the exposition of another. To this end, there are consistent puzzles inserted throughout the book for the reader to follow up on. So the fact that it doesn't take long to read cover to cover (I did it in 4 days) belies the depth of material that the pages didn't have room for and are followed up online. The book does get gradually more and more technical, which may put off some readers.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition of Number Mysteries 5 Sept. 2010
Format:Kindle Edition
Do not buy the Kindle edition.
Diagrams are missing. Bar codes are missing. Sidebars or inserts are printed in standard fonts and sizes and cannot be distinguished from the main text. The index is unuseable (this is even admitted in the cover note). Formulae appear at random sizes and in random fonts. The content is interesting, the format all but unreadable.
If the publisher cannot be bothered to reformat a book for readers like the kindle then he should not sell such editions. This is an extremely bad deal and I want my money back.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun 10 Dec. 2010
Format:Hardcover
As I consider myself a lay mathematician, I greatly enjoy the books by Marcus Du Sautoy, and have many already on my shelves. He writes very engagingly and with obvious knowledge and expertise. To date I have read some of the "Number Mysteries", and it does not disappoint.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odyssey Enjoyed 9 Aug. 2010
By M. Fox
Format:Hardcover
I am not knowledgeable about maths., but did not need to be in order to understand and enjoy this book.It is full of fascinating information, diagrams and games that illustrate the concepts and is written in an easy, conversational style that makes the Odyssey from ignorance to enlightenment a painless journey. I knew that numbers had a poetry and purpose that I was not introduced to at school; thank goodness that it is never too late to learn about and enjoy the mysteries of maths. and to enjoy something new.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
For my Son (almost 18 and will study Maths at Uni) he likes it, I have no idea!
Published 1 month ago by AnneJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Witty and inspiring
Published 2 months ago by Robert Rytovuori
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring book. Well written. Amazon provides very ...
Very inspiring book. Well written.
Amazon provides very efficient service.
Published 3 months ago by Yusuf Govani
3.0 out of 5 stars so-la-la
formulaic. (weak joke, apologies).
Published 3 months ago by Benny.H
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling for maths people
Excellent read for mathematically minded folk. Husband found it enthralling!
Published 4 months ago by Cheryl
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
OK, Believe me if I had been dissatisfied you would know by know.
Published 5 months ago by Bob Owen
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
lots of interesting facts/ideas. sometimes slightly too 'popular' for me
Published 10 months ago by I. King
4.0 out of 5 stars the beauty of mathematics
Here is a book which delights in the form, beauty and wonder of mathematics.
It speaks to non-specialists, and is always enthusiastic. Read more
Published 15 months ago by john waldren
3.0 out of 5 stars MATHEMATICAL JAUNT
This book by Marcus de Sautoy is a jaunt through some of the mathematical landscape.

Amongst the lightly covered topics are fractal dimension, lotto probability,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jet Lagged
5.0 out of 5 stars for a bright child
Our 12 year old daughter is thriving on this and other maths books by I Stewart and S Singh. She loves them all but the puzzles at the end of the chapters really peak her interest.
Published 17 months ago by K. J. Stone
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