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A. P. J. Jansen (Netherlands)
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How to Cut a Cake: And other mathematical conundrums
How to Cut a Cake: And other mathematical conundrums
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.39

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recreational mathematics at its best., 24 May 2010
How to Cut a Cake, and its predecessor Math Hysteria, are great books if you are interested in recreational mathematics and are not a mathematician but have a decent background in mathematics. The book has fewer topics than Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, but they are discussed much more deeply. They are also not so well known, but they are certainly highly interesting. There are two chapters on how to cut a cake so that everyone thinks that he gets a fair share, a chapter on different ways to tie your shoe laces and how long the laces have to be, a chapter on packing circles, a chapter on how the shuffle a pack of cards, a chapter on tangled phone cords, and many others. If you want to know more of the topics in the book, it even has a list of references for further reading.


Math Hysteria: Fun and games with mathematics
Math Hysteria: Fun and games with mathematics
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.65

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes some effort, but well worth it., 24 May 2010
Math Hysteria, and its follow-up How to Cut a Cake, are great books if you are interested in recreational mathematics and are not a mathematician but have a decent background in mathematics. The books has fewer topics than Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, but they are discussed much more deeply. They are also not so well known, but they are certainly highly interesting. For example, the first chapter is on statements that initially seem to contain no information at all, but, once you take into account what other people involved know, allow one to deduce everything that there is to know. Moreover, there are two chapters on the game Monopoly, a chapter on how to cut up a figure and to use the pieces to form a different shape, a chapter on sums of squares that form a square, a chapter on how to light with a candle a room with mirrors, and many others. If you want to know more of the topics in the book, it even has a list of references for further reading.


Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities
Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone interested in mathematics., 24 May 2010
Writing popular books on mathematics is a subtle balancing act. If you make things too simple, then there will be people that complain that the book is not challenging or even boring. If you make things too complicated, then you lose much of your readership. Ian Stewart generally gets it just right. Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities is somewhat lower level than his How to Cut a Cake and Math Hysteria, but it is still interesting even for people with a good mathematical background. This is because Stewart does write about complicated things, but manages to make understandable.

Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities more than 200 entries. Many are about mathematical problems and puzzles (some for the reader to solve; solution are given), but there are also entries about the history of mathematics. There are quite a few things you may have encountered before if you are already longer interested in mathematics (for example there are entries on the four-colour theorem, the bridges of Koenigsberg, Fermat's last theorem, magic squares, degrees of separation, space-filling curves, Fibonacci numbers, the Moebius band, chaos theory, the Goldbach conjecture, Hilbert's hotel, Euler's formula, Goedel's theorems, the game of life, and many others), but there is a lot that you will not have seen before.

Personally I like How to Cut a Cake and Math Hysteria better, because these book delve deeper in the problems that they discuss, but I still highly recommend Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities.


Rollback
Rollback
by Robert J. Sawyer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Not afraid to take an unpopular stand., 24 May 2010
This review is from: Rollback (Mass Market Paperback)
Rollback is the follow-up novel of Mindscan. In Rollback there is a second extraterrestrial message, and again it is up to Sarah Halifax to decipher it. The problem now is, however, that she is 38 years older and not in the best of health anymore. She is offered a rejuvenation process, to give her more time, which she accepts provided her husband is given the treatment as well. The irony is then that the treatment does not work for her, but it does for her husband. Moreovoer, having his youth and his sexual desires restored makes him cheat on his wife. Some reviewers have written they don't like this about the book, because it makes him such an unpleasant character. It seems to me that this means that also Sarah is an unpleasant character, as she says that she would not only have done the same, but even have left her husband if the roles would have been reversed. Maybe we would like those characters to do the morally just thing, but I wonder how realistic that really is. As far as the message is concerned, Sarah does manage to decipher it before she dies, but she does not get to see what that leads to.


Worldwar: In the Balance (New English library)
Worldwar: In the Balance (New English library)
by Harry Turtledove
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exciting if it would not go on and on., 23 May 2010
Harry Turtledove writes alternative history books. In World War: In the Balance there is an alien invasion during World War II. The events in the book are based on two premises. One is that faced with the outside threat humanity will put aside its differences. The other is that the aliens are more advanced, but they are also less inventive and their society has developed slower. Consequently, humanity quickly catches up with the aliens and manages to pose the aliens more and more unpleasant surprises. These premises are not really original, but they do lead to a exciting story. Moreover, Turtledove obvious knows the real history of World War II, which allows him to describe the action all over the world quite realistically. This however is also the main weakness of the book (better: books). The story just goes on and on. Instead of being restricted to one exciting book, it goes on for two more books, which get rather boring. On the other hand, the idea that ginger is a drug for the aliens is very funny.


Calculating God
Calculating God
by Robert Sawyer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous provided you don't take it too seriously., 22 May 2010
Robert Sawyer has a subtle humor, and maybe this book that shows this best. I like it very much, because humor and SF are not seen very often together. It starts with an alien landing on Earth who is not interested at all in talking to our "leaders", but just wants to talk to a paleontologist. The really funny thing however is that Sawyer takes arguments that are normally used to proof evolution theory and uses them to proof the existence of god. I guess that a professional geologist or paleontologist can show where his story is wrong, but if you are not one of them, then the story is quite intriguing. I don't think that the book is pro-creationism, as some reviewers do. The paleontologist does start to have doubts, but they are at least in part emotional and caused by his fatal illness.


Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Battle Royale (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Koushun Takami
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.79

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It does not make sense, but it is very exciting., 22 May 2010
This is a gruesome book. Forty-two students are taken to an island and forced to kill each other. The book is very well written, and survives even the translation which is occasionally awkward. The action is gripping and the characters are well-developed and realistic. The only quibble I have is that the book does not give a valid reason for why these students are made to kill each other. One can see it as the arbitrary violence characteristic of a totalitarian government, but that is not really a satisfying explanation.


Blindsighted: (Grant County series 1)
Blindsighted: (Grant County series 1)
by Karin Slaughter
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is not really about crime., 22 May 2010
If you like crime novels, like me, because, amongst other things, the crime in a book forms a hard-to-solve puzzle, then this book is not for you. The book is really about a group of people that all have a traumatic experience in their past that seems to dominate their lives. Unfortunately, this does not lead to interesting characters. On the contrary, because they are determined by a single event, the characters are rather flat. The crimes in the book, though very gruesome and described quite vividly, seem almost peripheral. They are also not really solved. In fact, the police doesn't even do much to solve the crimes, because they are much too busy with other things like making sure the racist don't kill innocent people, improving their personal relations, and checking on the wrong suspects. The perpetrator is finally stopped because one of his intended victims manages to kill him. All in all not a very exciting book.


Far-Seer (Quintaglio Ascension)
Far-Seer (Quintaglio Ascension)
by Robert J. Sawyer
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be better known., 20 May 2010
The Quintaglio series consists of a number of books that take place in a society of dinosaurian creatures. Far-Seer tells the story of Afsan, an astronomer, who discovers that his world is round and a moon circling a planet that is called the Face of God. As the name indicates the planet plays an important role in the religion of Afsan's society, and his discovery causes a lot of tension. The story mirrors the Copernican revolution, except that Afsan is Copernicus, Bruno, and Gallilei rolled into one. There are of course also clear differences; the main one being Afsan's society. The Quintaglios are carnivorous and highly territorial. This has a number of consequences for the characters of the Quintaglios, which are not only worked out very well, and also very intriguing. For example, much of the etiquette of the Quintaglios is there to avoid fights breaking out when they get too close together and their instinct tells them that their territory is being invaded. The books of Quintaglio series are not so well known as some of the other of Sawyer's book. I don't know if that is as it should be. Far-Seer is excellent.


Salmonella Men on Planet Porno
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno
by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre and intriguing, 20 May 2010
The imagination of many Japanese writers often seems to be decidedly different from what we are used to from native English writers. (See for example also the SF books that are currently published by Haikasoru.) Sometimes this leads to something very intriguing, sometimes it leads to something that is only bizarre. This collection of stories has both. "The Dabba Dabba Tree", "Rumours about Me", and "Hello, Hello, Hello!" are about people whose life has been changed substantially because of one simple thing. I found them the most funny stories in the book. On the other hand "Bravo Herr Mozart!" seems just strange. On whole however the book is well worth reading however.


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