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Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  299 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews

“A profusely illustrated, bemusingly unorthodox introduction to math.â€â€”Booklist

A book for the eternally curious, Coincidences fuses a professor’s understanding of the hidden mathematical skeleton of the universe with the sensibility of a stand-up comedian, making life’s big questions accessible and compelling. Each chapter opens with a surprising insight—not a
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2005)
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Nov 16, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: mathematics
In Coincidences Chaos and All That Math Jazz, Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird do for modern mathematics what Charles Wheelan did for economics in Naked Economics. Namely they have written a review of the major branches of current mathematics research in a highly accessible and often hilarious style.

They begin with probability and chaos theory and work their way to degrees of infinity. Along the way they make stops around statistics, number theory and cryptography, Fibonacci numbers, the go
Oct 11, 2011 Margie rated it liked it
Shelves: math
Oooh, so close.
I wanted this book to be better than it is. It's a fine book, but I had, perhaps, unrealistic expectations. It introduces non-maths types to various mathematical concepts (chaos, infinity, etc.) in a way that is very accessible. But then it sort of dumps us there - "whee! wasn't that fun?!" I would have much preferred that it go a bit deeper. But it's probably quite good for those who have no interest in math to begin with.
Apr 09, 2011 Susan rated it it was ok
I think the math was good ... I felt like I understood iterations, Fibonacci sequences - even the Klein bottle ... but the book didn't grab me. It felt as if Burger was trying too hard to be engaging and amusing and not letting the intrinsic interest of the subject
Kathy Nealen
Dec 10, 2016 Kathy Nealen rated it really liked it
Various mathematical and number theory topics presented in a humorous, nontechnical format. One of the authors is the instructor for the Great .Courses "Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers" course.
Apr 21, 2008 Sheima rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Someone who wants to learn a little about real life mathematics.
This book is a great for anyone who is not into Math. There are lots of pictures and no equations, and the book is written in a very conversational style.
Jan 27, 2017 Hannah rated it liked it
A very fun look at math theory -- even if you aren't a "math person" this is a great read. I found myself skipping some sections that went too heavy into the practical, but nonetheless had a great time.
Jun 05, 2017 Nicki rated it liked it
Interesting book. Second half of book was too much math for me. Math not my strength. Overall, worth reading.
Jan 09, 2008 Tung rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Recommended to me by a friend several years ago, this book is my annual pop math/science book for the year. Written by two university math professors, the book introduces the reader to various counter-intuitive concepts that make more sense when you understand the math behind them (for example, that infinity plus infinity is still infinity, or why if there are 45 random people in a room together, there’s a 95% chance that at least two of them share a birthday). The book balances the deep math di ...more
Lara Neves
O conteúdo é interessante, como era de esperar dado o tópico, mas a forma nem por isso. Durante toda a leitura senti que o autor esforçava-se (demasiado) para mandar piadas cuja piada ou perdeu-se na tradução, ou já não era grande coisa à partida. É natural tenha sido impressão minha e que nem todos os leitores deste livro achem o mesmo. Mas para quem estiver interessado num livro de fácil compreensão sobre conceitos matemáticos, diria que "A Matemática das Coisas" de Nuno Crato (agora estimado ...more
Feb 09, 2012 Fee rated it it was ok
Author starts this book out with great examples of coincidences and how we over value these events . It was simple and examples where easy to follow during the first 50 pages. For example, two people throwing a full deck of cards down at the same time can put into perspective that coincidences happen more than we realize by noticing the exact same card hitting often. The next 150 pages are the lamest examples of how you view probabilities and measurements such as how many times we can fold a pie ...more
Dec 20, 2015 Mo rated it really liked it
So i've read more than a couple of Pop-Sci maths books over the past year and this turned out to be by far the best one. The authors - both award winning maths educators - prove themselves to be every bit as skilled and imaginative with words as they are with numbers and the results is a ferociously intelligent, witty, joyful gem of a book.

It can also be considered the most challenging of all the Pop-Sci Maths books I have read but only if you want it to be. If you insist on following the autho
Maurizio Codogno
Nov 15, 2010 Maurizio Codogno rated it really liked it
Scopo dichiarato degli autori di questo libro è presentare la matematica senza usare formule, al limite con un linguaggio che dovrebbe essere umoristico almeno per chi apprezza lo stile; non giochi di parole alla Ian Stewart, ma battute storpiando le frasi fatte, un po' come nel titolo stesso del libro. Il contenuto è abbastanza classico per questo tipo di divulgazione, spaziando dalla sezione aurea alla matematica del caos per arrivare alla quarta dimensione e ai numeri transfiniti (con l'alber ...more
May 29, 2015 Allison rated it really liked it
This book is humorous and fun, but is not at all rigorous. It presents pretty basic math concepts very intuitively, so I recommend it for people who are interested in math but didn't study it past high school -- or for high school students who like math and want some entertainment.
It is great for what it is. As someone who has been introduced to all of the topics presented in the book more rigorously, I sometimes wanted the author to present the topic in a more practical way, but in general I fo
Serval Spots
Nov 20, 2015 Serval Spots rated it liked it
Shelves: library
While the goal of writing a book about mathematical principles that would be fun and accessible to everyone was certainly achieved, one cannot help but feel that it could have been done without neglecting to provide some details that would have allowed the reader to find further information on any given subject. Even the Further Reading section is nothing more that a recommendation to read another book by the same authors, and a video by The Teaching Company.

Still the book is enjoyable, and litt
David Fang
Jan 11, 2015 David Fang rated it really liked it
This book was very good. The author took us away from what we think math in our class. He shows us that math is not mundane or boring if we look at math from a wider perspective. From golden rectangles to mathematical chaos, he shows us that math is everywhere. He has also given us a glimpse of the 4th dimension. All in all, I believe this book is an interesting read to math lovers and non math lovers alike. 4/5, would read again!
Sep 30, 2013 Courtney rated it it was ok
This is a part of a larger trend in pop books. Pop-psychology, pop-economics, pop-math, et cetera.

I had hopes for this book. It opened strong with a concise description of coincidence and chaos, but quickly diverges from these topics. After a while the quips feel distracting. And in the end it was generally unsatisfying.
Jim Sullivan
Apr 14, 2012 Jim Sullivan rated it really liked it
If you've been interested in Chaos theory or the study of Complexity research, this book is an excellent primer. Not as heavy as some books, more focused on examples of complexity and using existing examples to demonstrate the theories.
Aug 19, 2013 Ellen rated it liked it
I really tried with this. I DO not have the best mind for abstract analytical stuff; although I think the author did a good job of simplifying for the layperson, I still couldn't understand a good portion of it.
Aug 02, 2011 Lillian added it
Shelves: math
Nice short chapters so you don't lose interest. There are certain topics I want to know more about, though. I suppose that's a good thing; this book gets one interested and then one can find more detail elsewhere.
Apr 03, 2010 Ilda rated it really liked it
I read the portuguese translation. The book is really interesting and I think it should be a mandatory reading for those who want to teach maths. It's amazing how is possible to explain difficult concepts without writting a single formula.
John Benson
Aug 16, 2009 John Benson rated it it was amazing
Many of the really cool math applications are here, and presented in an interesting and clear text. It is on my list of must read math books. Great stuff.
Rey Walker
Jan 19, 2011 Rey Walker rated it really liked it
Shelves: thinking, humor
More on ways of thinking than math. The humor and clear explanations make the book a worthwhile read even for those of us who tend to be math challenged.
Apr 10, 2008 Hannah rated it really liked it
This is a really fun book that explores mathematical topics in an interesting and thought-provoking way!
Apr 24, 2008 Craig rated it liked it
Recommends it for: nerds that aren't math saavy
A bit TOO dumbed down in my opinion. Almost condescending at some points. Otherwise, a good overview of mathematical anomalies and intricacies without the math.
Jul 08, 2015 Zack rated it it was ok
Not great. All the flippant attempts at humor fell flat, especially considering they become more and more dated as the book ages. Oh well.
Annie Djarova
Nov 01, 2012 Annie Djarova rated it liked it
Jul 01, 2009 Marni marked it as to-read
I started into it a little, would be fun to play with the math more.
Wu Zheng
Sep 13, 2009 Wu Zheng rated it it was amazing
One of the best math book. It explains hard concepts in a way that everyone can understand. It helps people to look at math concept from a different angle.
Vladimir Kiperman
Jan 29, 2010 Vladimir Kiperman rated it it was amazing
Fun and educational.
Aug 12, 2011 Robert rated it it was ok
Shelves: x2010-11-season
Weighty, but a bit simplistic, I've read better Pop-math before.
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