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Book review and competition

27 August 2018

Mathematics: A curious history
By Joel Levy

Have you ever wondered about the origins of mathematics and when and where certain hypotheses were first proposed? This book unravels the story of maths from its earliest beginnings with the Egyptians and Babylonians through the work of the Arabian scholars and Galileo to ‘modern day’ geniuses such as Alan Turing and John Nash.

The book starts describing a party trick – how to add together all the numbers from 1 to 100 in minutes (answer below) – and works its way from antiquity through to modern machine mathematics.

Along the way, it covers areas such as chaos theory, game theory, and probability theory (the mathematics of chance) and when zero isn’t zero.

A quip from Levy (who is a science writer) about the logical outcome of equipping computers with Bodean logic is apocalyptic (think the Terminator films).

This is a very accessible book, interspersing text with anecdotes and diagrams, in short chapters, meaning you can read it from cover to cover or dip in and out, as you want.

The book is published by Andre Deutsch, part of the Carlton Publishing Group. At £9.99 it’s good value and would be a great gift for anyone you know with an interest in mathematics.

We have one copy to give away. If you would like a chance of winning it, send an email to [email protected] with Competition –  Mathematics in the subject line. We will randomly select one name from the entries on Friday 7 September 2018, who will win the book**.

* How to add together all the numbers from 1 to 100 : The sum of the numbers is the sum of 50 sets of pairs (1+100 = 101, 2+99 = 101, 3+98 = 101…) so, 50 x 101 = 5,050. The sum of any series of consecutive numbers (n) is n/2 times the sum of the first and last numbers in the series, e.g. the sum of the numbers from 1 to 20 is 20/2 x (1+20) = 10×21 = 210.

** Competition Rules: There is one prize, which is the book, Mathematics: A curious history, by Joel Levy. There is no cash equivalent prize. A name will be selected at random on Friday 7 September 2018 and the winner notified by email. All information is held in accordance with the Research in Finance Privacy Policy.