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The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics (The ... Book: 250 Milestones in the History of ...)

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,247 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Math’s infinite mysteries and beauty unfold in this follow-up to the best-selling The Science Book. Beginning millions of years ago with ancient “ant odometers” and moving through time to our modern-day quest for new dimensions, it covers 250 milestones in mathematical history. Among the numerous delights readers will learn about as they dip into this inviting anthology: c ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Sterling (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sean
Jun 25, 2010 Sean rated it really liked it
The first thing I did when I picked up this book was look up Kovalevskaya in the index. As in Sofia Kovalevksaya, mathematical genius and pioneering female mathematician and academician of the 19th century. And there she was, a full page on one of my heroes. Weierstrass's unsung research partner. The first woman in Europe to obtain a doctorate in mathematics and only the third female full professor. This article and the article on Emmy Noether (a female mathematical genius of even higher stature ...more
Grant
Jul 16, 2011 Grant rated it it was ok
I found the book too much of a tease, where it would explain the most intuitive concepts that didn't need to be explained and then skip over the more interesting complex things. Introducing the most notable mathematical contributions is a great idea, but two hundred is far too many to remember or appreciate given the limited text.
Robert
Apr 30, 2016 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a few quirks in the presentation of this book that annoyed me but might not be noticed by anyone else.

The structure of the book is to have 3 or 4 paragraphs that explain discuss introduce mention a favorite topic of the author on the left page and an illustrative picture on the right. Each picture has an explanatory blurb at the bottom of the left page. Here is the annoyance: Most of the time the blurb simply repeated a few sentences from the 3 or 4 paragraphs of text above. I
...more
Adam
Jan 27, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
I thought this was simply a wonderful book. This is the first book I've ready by Clifford Pickover and seeing that he has written many others I think I will go track some of those down. This book basically covers the history of Mathematics in a very concise, but thoughtful way.

Although the book is not a complete history, then again 500 pages would be barely enough to cover a complete history, but "The Math Book" covers some essential points. Pickover tried to do a couple of things when he wrote
...more
Jessica
Sep 30, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Fantastic collection of topics and beautiful illustrations. Warning: If you are looking for a book that gives in-depth explanations of mathematical concepts, this isn't for you: each topic is only given a page of rather large text, so the explanations are often shallow.
Liezie
Jun 02, 2012 Liezie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After 1 year, 1 week and a lot of toilet visits it is finally finished. :)

I'm very glad I bought it. I found it very interesting.

The writer doesn't always succeed to explain the complex matter into terms I understood, but most of the time he does. And it doesn't always stick to the theories, often it just tells about the scientists behind the science, the times they lived in, what practical fields it is used in, why it is important, ...

You do not have to have a scientific background to like th
...more
Charles
Jan 08, 2015 Charles rated it it was amazing
This book is the perfect one to reside on the coffee table of math department lounges, as it is possible to open it to any page and use the contents to begin a mathematical conversation. All the subject matter is presented at a level that all professional mathematicians will understand and people with a high school education that included mathematics can easily understand the majority of the topics. For each of the subjects, one page is devoted to a brief explanation and the next contains a colo ...more
Eric Hamilton
Jan 02, 2012 Eric Hamilton rated it it was ok
More of a history book than a useful dive into actual math topics. Would have been more interesting if each topic was a few pages long (and less topics overall) - with each topic making an attempt to describe and/or teach the reader about the topic. Instead every page is a brief overview of the topic and how it helped our lives - which is interesting, but not interesting enough for a book of this size.
Jeff
Jun 17, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
The subtitle of this book is; "From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics". That about says sit all. This is a really cool encyclopedia-like book with great images and one-page anecdote about math, from across time. They range from cicada's calculating prime numbers, to the Infinite Monkey Theorem to how they solved Checkers. I used it like a nightly devotional, reading one or two stories every night. (probably why it took me 2 years to finish).

One intere
...more
Ray  Chung
Dec 10, 2015 Ray Chung rated it really liked it
The Math Book, by Clifford A. Pickover, covers “250 Milestones In The History Of Mathematics”, as it says on the cover. It covers many interesting math-related discoveries and covers many confusing paradoxes, including solutions to many of them. It really shows how math has developed in the course of history through the chronological order of the events. I would recommend this book to anyone because it explains the ideas very clearly, no matter how much you know about math. I would rate this boo ...more
Mikko Karvonen
Jul 14, 2010 Mikko Karvonen rated it really liked it
The Math Book is basically a sweeping history of mathematics told through 250 key milestones. It does not even try to be detailed or all-encompassing, but aims to track the way and rate mathematics has developed over the millenia.

Each subject has been devoted one page of text and one more or less related full-colour image on the opposite page. The result is a visually attractive encyclopedia that is easy to follow. Pickover's enthusiastic, and for the most part layman-friendly writing completes
...more
David
Oct 23, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics, science
Following a sort of chronological ordering from the very ancient to the present, each two page spread involves some curious aspect of mathematical significance, with a decidedly curious bent toward a particular philosophical stance on the matter of whether mathematics is created or discovered. Pickover seems to lean toward the discovery side of this argument, which in no way lessens the way he goes from a desert ant that has some method of "counting" its steps (which begs the question of how an ...more
Michael Knight
Jun 29, 2015 Michael Knight rated it really liked it
Overall a good book. It discussed some things that I, as a math major, have never heard of before. The book itself is what I like to call "chunky", here meaning that it doesn't go deep into the theory behind it, but it just makes a " chunk" of the idea and discusses that. While I don't usually like books like this, I enjoyed this one just for the fact that it made me want to research a few more mathematical ideas
KennyO
Jan 12, 2015 KennyO rated it it was amazing
Dissertations have been written about many of the milestones in this volume. For each milestone there's a page of text facing a page of illustration that's more artistic than illustrative. It's not a rigorous examination of anything and it's not a book to read in a few consecutive days like a novel. It's an invitation to dig deeper. A kind of chronological checklist to pique your interest. It's piqued mine!
Marinho Lopes
Jan 05, 2015 Marinho Lopes rated it really liked it
Gostei muito deste livro! O autor tentou reunir as mais importantes descobertas matemáticas que há conhecimento. As descobertas estão ordenadas cronologicamente, sendo cada uma resumida e explicada em termos simples numa só página. Como é evidente, não se fica a compreender a essência da maioria das descobertas, mas obtém-se uma boa visão global sobre a História da Matemática, das suas principais figuras, e sobre os seus campos de estudo.
Steve
Nov 16, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing
Do you like Math? Do you like History? Do you like Math History?

If the answer to any of the above was "no", then this is a book with a serious chance of changing your mind.


This book is essentially a highlight reel of math history. With a quick page-long summary (coupled with some interesting art), the author briefly explains some mathematical development, how it happened, who did it, and occasionally an amusing little side note to the history as well.

The topics covered range from the fairly well
...more
Brian Ryer
Nov 14, 2013 Brian Ryer rated it really liked it
This is not so much the kind of book that you read cover to cover but more the sort of book you want to have lying around wherever you work (or relax if you're a math geek) as picking it up and flipping it open presents you with a short article on one little bit of the landscape of the magnificent multi-peaked mountain of knowledge called mathematics. You want to dip into it frequently.

For me this short figurative jaunt on the math highlands works as a general purpose inspirational nudge. Prime
...more
Fred Hughes
Jun 22, 2014 Fred Hughes rated it really liked it
A highly entertaining book on a topic most people would consider boring.

However I have never thought that zero had to be created, plus a whole lot of other creations that make our world what it is today

Not to mention rubiks cube and instant insanity

A speedy and easy read as the author talks about one math item per page with an illustration on the other page, so nice digestible bites
chippyvale
Mar 14, 2014 chippyvale rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book! I wished my math lecturers had used some anecdotes prior to their classes such as the Normal Distribution Curve, it would have make classes less boring and more fascinating! I absolutely enjoyed this read; it would take a few more thorough readings to fully comprehend it since there are 250 articles of them but that's okay!
Richard
Nov 19, 2015 Richard rated it liked it
On first impression, this book is a beautifully illustrated, hard colder math book with acute glimpses into discoveries in mathematics. I've always wanted to write a similar such book! Upon reading it, I found myself looking it a lot less than I wanted to.

Too often were illustrations lazily chosen and resembled clipart. A significant number of entries were references to math texts, which were important, but nowhere nearly as interesting as other findings or quandaries in math.

There was a heavy
...more
Dan Mozgai
Sep 01, 2014 Dan Mozgai rated it really liked it
A fun and inspiring walk though 250 milestones in the history of math (like the subtitle of the books says). Highlights include Prince Rupert's supernatural poodle, the Banach-Tarski Paradox, Information Theory and the Coastline Paradox. I haven't studied math since college, and this book was a fun trip back in time.
Ibrahim
Oct 12, 2015 Ibrahim marked it as to-read
Shelves: math, history
Notes on the topic of Lie Groups:
- E8 is the largest; it describes the symmetries of a 57-dimensional object that can in essence be rotated in 248 ways without changing its appearance.

Also more to read in: "Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers, by Marc Chamberland".
Finou
Enfin un livre qui donne des mathématiques à voir ! Et quelles images ! Plus de 250 magnifiques illustrations accompagnées d’un petit texte de vulgarisation très accessible. On voyage dans le temps, de -150 millions avant notre ère où on découvre des fourmis équipées de podomètre, les premières traces de mathématiques sur la terre ? On arrive après de nombreuses découvertes au groupe de Lie E_8. On rencontre en chemin les plus grands mathématiciens. Les célèbres : Pythagore, Thalès, Euler, Gauss ...more
A.R. Davis
Jan 31, 2014 A.R. Davis rated it really liked it
This was a very pretty book with page long descriptions of historically significant mathematical concepts. Each description was accompanied with a full page related image. However, you will need to search further for any significant understanding of the ideas.
Daniel Wright
Jul 28, 2014 Daniel Wright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, mathematics
The now-ubiquitous word "awesome" is, sadly, the only word I can use to describe this book. I can't speak loud enough over the noise of Pickover shouting, "LOOK HOW F***ING AWESOME I AM! LOOK, MATHS! IT'S THE F***ING S***, RIGHT?!"

Well, maybe not exactly that, but you get the general idea. Honestly, I will keep this book near me for quite a long time to come, just opening it at a random entry to see what piece of incredible general awesomeness I can find. I mean first there's some ants, and then
...more
Nia
Jul 09, 2014 Nia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I believe that this book has been educational and extremely informative, but this is not my cup of tea. I'm thinking of either selling it, or waiting to read when I begin high school...
Oliver Sampson
May 09, 2014 Oliver Sampson rated it liked it
The idea of devoting a one page explanation to a particular mathematical topic, explaining it in simple (enough) language so that a mathematical person, but not necessarily a mathematician, can understand the concept, and accompanying it with a beautiful related image is a wonderful idea, and it is executed here very well. What greatly takes away from the book is Mr. Pickover's raging anti-German comments, using every opportunity to pull in the Holocaust either in reference to a Jewish mathemati ...more
Ludo
Mar 23, 2011 Ludo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: betacanon
Echt salontafelboek - Gewoon enkele maanden laten rondslingeren in huis. (ipv al die kunstboeken) en je huisgenoten geraken ook in de ban.
Alleen al door de prachtige foto's! Heel leuk en enthousiast geschreven met veel zin voor historische anekdotes en referenties.

Van priemgetallen, over de stelling van Fermat tot bijna holyeders in de Antarctische ijsmassa.
Mijn favorieten zijn de imaginaire getallen (1572)van de Italiaanse ingenieur Rafael Bombelli, beroemd voor zijn notatie van de vierkantswo
...more
Jeff Yoak
This book is just delightful! It's full of interesting ideas and beautiful pictures. It's actually sort of hard to sit and read -- it's something else. It's a coffee table book about mathematics. It's for picking up in an idle moment and reading a brief passage, almost sure to be interesting and even new. In that respect, it's different from any other math book I've owned. Typically, the nature of the beast is such that what you're called to do is follow a long chain of reasoning. Here, it is sm ...more
Kaylee
Jul 15, 2011 Kaylee rated it really liked it
I was one of those readers who "read it from cover to cover" (Pickover prefaces the book with a bit about the different types of readers he expects).

Setting aside the obvious "why this and not that?" question about what was included, I loved this book. He wrote each entry in a way that was easy for a nonmath person to understand (at least I think so), but that didn't dumb it down or make it uninteresting to the mathy type. I have to say, despite my math degree, I learned a lot from this book --
...more
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Clifford A. Pickover is an American author, editor, and columnist in the fields of science, mathematics, and science fiction, and is employed at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York.

He received his Ph.D. in 1982 from Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he conducted research on X-ray scattering and protein structure. Pickover graduated
...more
More about Clifford A. Pickover...

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“Often, simply knowing the answer is the largest hurdle to overcome when formulating a proof.” 0 likes
“Mathematical theories have sometimes been used to predict phenomena that were not confirmed until years later. For example, Maxwell's equations, named after physicist James Clerk Maxwell, predicted radio waves. Einstein's field equations suggested that gravity would bend light and that the universe is expanding. Physicist Paul Dirac once noted that the abstract mathematics we study now gives us a glimpse of physics in the future. In fact, his equations predicted the existence of antimatter, which was subsequently discovered. Similarly, mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky said that "there is no branch of mathematics, however abstract, which may not someday be applied to the phenomena of the real world.” 0 likes
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