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Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The mathematics behind some of the world's most amazing card tricks

Magical Mathematics reveals the secrets of fun-to-perform card tricks--and the profound mathematical ideas behind them--that will astound even the most accomplished magician. Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham provide easy, step-by-step instructions for each trick, explaining how to set up the effect and offerin
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published October 23rd 2011 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Brian Clegg
Nov 21, 2011 rated it liked it
This is an oddity of a popular maths book in that the approachable bits of the book aren't, on the whole, about maths but about magic. Magic is a strange topic - for me, certainly, it has a fascination. When I was at school I briefly flirted with the school's magical society, but in the end I hadn't the patience to practice the tricks over and over again until they were slick enough to be worth watching. I wanted instant magic that didn't require sleight of hand ability. The other interesting th ...more
Blaise Pascal
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
THis book is a good mix of mathematics and self-working magic tricks. It tells of a number of mathematical principles or results by introducing them with a magic trick, explaining how it works, expanding on the explanation to a more general form, and showing how other tricks can be built based off that generalization. The book is full of history and personal anecdotes about mathematics and magic as well.

Both authors are accomplished mathematicians and magicians, and many of the tricks in the boo
Apr 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Magic tricks are algorithms (at least the mathematical ones), and so this is a book about algorithm engineering; the math(s) involved is the same you would find in any book on algorithms - combinatorics, a bit of permutation group theory and some graph theory.
I got the impression that the authors weren't sure what kind of book they wanted to write - a math book or a magic book. In the first chapters they still make an effort to explain the math and even give some proofs of the easier results, bu
Bob Lewis
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Don't be fooled by the cover. This is not your child's book of "self-working" mathematical magic tricks. It's actually a serious work of mathematics focused on the interplay between magic and mathematics. There's been a long history of collaboration between magicians and mathematicians, some of which is chronicled in this book. The important thing to note, however, is that while it does exist in the gray area between mathematics and conjuring, its focus is more mathematical. The authors are both ...more
Simon Fletcher
An interesting book on how maths plays an important part in magic. Very technical in places and well over my head but worth a go.
One to dip in and out of again and again.
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Most of the chapters were good tricks and generally understandable math. Cut-deck+turn-two trick (chapter 1), mind-reading effect (chapter 4), and miracle divination (chapter 7) were my favorites.

On the other hand, several chapters were too dense and lost me in the math. I would re-read several of the paragraphs trying to 'get it' before eventually moving on. This was likely a problem of the reader and not the author. I do appreciate that the author treats the reader as an adult and doesn't spo
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-math
A little disappointing. I mean, this was Diaconis! (and Ron Graham). But just really bad at both math and magic. Not enough detail on the math (and I don't think that it was just because I wanted more proof and stuff---there really just wasn't enough description of the math to make sense of what they were talking about). Actually, pretty much the same for the magic. I understand that it's hard to describe card tricks in writing. But they set out to write a book! They have to do better than that! ...more
Pix Smith
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good book, and interesting if you are into the math. Sometimes the concepts took a couple of reads, but some of that has to do with the page breaks and layout, for which I can't really fault the authors. All in all, I enjoyed this, and it had some mind stretching thinking, with some pretty cool results. It isn't though, for the faint of heart or the casual reader by any stretch of the imagination. ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Feb 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, math
I really grazed this book, rather than intently reading it. I thought it would be more recreational math and it is truly lots of magic and then the explanation is math. It starts off with lots of card tricks. There's graph theory and combinatorics and coding theory in abundance. It's clear that what makes many magic tricks is the showmanship of the magician. ...more
Justin Suissa
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part math exposé, part card magic primer, this books does a good job diving into the convergence and relationship of the two disciplines. If you like either subject, I recommend the book, though the math can get a bit academic at times. Some simple but impressive tricks are taught throughout.
Josh McDevitt-Spall
Jan 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Brian nails it at the opening of his review. The approachable bits are about magic. I'm a huge math geek, but was mostly lost reading the mathematical explanations. I thought perhaps this book would make the math understandable/relatable. Big disappointment. ...more
Jan 30, 2014 added it
i think i like the book
Dana Kraft
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is pretty heavy - not for the casual fan of either magic or math. I enjoy math but learned that while I love watching a great magician, I don't really care how the tricks are done. ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was ok

More math than I was expecting and I'm not as interested in magic as I thought.
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