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stranger and stranger
is a book by the founder of curiouser.co.uk. It is account of part of his life, which itself is filled with paradox.
'This book is compelling testimony of one man’s courage in dealing with a life that has been comprehensively wrecked by severe M.E.
The whimsical format and offbeat humour create a vivid picture of the reality of a raw talent constrained by prolonged illness
but never defeated. stranger and stranger is well named. It is by turns funny, intriguing, sad and just strange but it
is above all a triumphant demonstration of Robert’s inner strength. Do read it and be educated, entertained and enlightened about this horrible illness.' Sir Peter Spencer, CEO, Action for ME.
Fermat's Last Theorem
:The story of a riddle that confounded the world's greatest minds for 358 years.
Simon Singh is simply a brilliant popular science writer. Everybody is encouraged to to read all his books, however little interest they may think that have in the subject matter. His books are informative, enlightening and a pleasure to read. Who would have believed that the story of a 358 year old maths problem could read like a page turning thriller, without dumbing down, patronising the reader or diverging from the subject? And yet, it does. Do not buy this book believing that it will enable you understand Andrew Wiles’s proof of Fermat’s great riddle. It won’t. Only a handful of the best mathematicians in the world are able to fully understand Wile’s proof. Buy it to be entertained by the brilliance of Singh’s wiritng, to learn about the history of how one of the great problems of mathematics was finally solved, and, for many, to learn what you didn’t know you don’t know about advanced mathematics – and almost certainly never will.
: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About It.
Another brilliant book by Simon Singh.
Albert Einstein once said: ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.’ Simon Singh believes geniuses like Einstein are not the only people able to grasp the physics that govern the universe. We all can.
As well as explaining what the Big Bang theory actually is and why cosmologists believe it is an accurate description of the origins of the universe, this book is also the fascinating story of the scientists who fought against the established idea of an eternal and unchanging universe. Simon Singh, renowned for making difficult ideas much less daunting than they first seem, is the perfect guide for this journey.
Everybody has heard of the Big Bang Theory. But how many of us can actually claim to understand it? With characteristic clarity and a narrative peppered with anecdotes and personal histories of those who have struggled to understand creation, Simon Singh has written the story of the most important theory ever.
(The above is taken from the product description at Amazon.co.uk)
The Code Book
: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking.
The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
From the best-selling author of Fermat’s Last Theorem, The Code Book is a history of man’s urge to uncover the secrets of codes, from Egyptian puzzles to modern day computer encryptions.
As in Fermat’s Last Theorem, Simon Singh brings life to an anstonishing story of puzzles, codes, languages and riddles that reveals man’s continual pursuit to disguise and uncover, and to work out the secret languages of others.
Codes have influenced events throughout history, both in the stories of those who make them and those who break them. The betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots and the cracking of the enigma code that helped the Allies in World War II are major episodes in a continuing history of cryptography. In addition to stories of intrigue and warfare, Simon Singh also investigates other codes, the unravelling of genes and the rediscovery of ancient languages and most tantalisingly, the Beale ciphers, an unbroken code that could hold the key to a $20 million treasure.
(The above is taken from the product description at Amazon.co.uk)
Moonwalking with Einstein
contains within it a little known paradox: if you show a photograph of a man’s face to someone and tell them that he is a baker, they are more likely to remember that fact than if they are told that he is called Baker. The paradox is explained by the fact that it is easier to visualise a baker than a name, and that visualisation is the key to improving memory.
That is the essence of mnemonics, the prinicpal subject of this entertaining book which offers an insight into how the human memory works and how it can be improved by the study of ancient techniques.
The author began his journey into the world of memory as an observer but was sufficiently intrigued by what he learnt that he ended up training to compete the US national memory championships. The story of how he progressed is interweaved with accounts of the people he encounters with extraordinary memories, from Kim Peek the prodigious savant who inspired the character played by Dustin Hoffmann in the film Rain Man, to a man who has lost the ability to form new memories after a virus destroyed his temporal lobes.
There is also a very interesting chapter in which Foer casts doubt on the honesty of Daniel Tammet, the best-selling author of “Born on a Blue Day”. Is Tammet (born Daniel Corney) really a prodigious savant with synesthesia, or is he just a man with a history of developmental disability who has trained hard in conventional memory techniques?
Unlike training for competitive memory events, this book is not a slog. It is a light and enjoyable jog along a little-known path with some very pleasant – indeed memorable – views.
In answering his own question: “We read and read and read, and we forget and forget and forget. So why do we bother?”, Foer quotes Michel De Montaigne: “I leaf through books, I do not study them… What I retain of them is something I no longer recognize as anyone else’s. It is only the material from which my judgement has profited, and the thoughts and ideas with which it has become imbued; the author, the place, the words, and other circumstances, I immediately forget.”
There will be few who read this book who do not learn something which they retain in the long term; and many who will retain more of what they learn elsewhere as a result of having read it.
Aha! Gotcha : Paradoxes to Puzzle and Delight
is highly recommended to anyone who has enjoyed the paradoxical side of curiouser.co.uk. It is just one of
many fascinating books written by Martin Gardner.
The book is divided into six sections: Logic, Number, Geometry, Probability, Statistics and Time. Each sections features a number of challenging
but clearly explained paradoxes. Gardner is an excellent writer, who has the rare gift of being able to explain potentially confusing subject matter in a clear and straightforward way.
If you are looking for a book with colourful illustrations and dazzling artwork, this should not be your choice, but if you are interested to read
more about paradoxes, this will serve as an excellent introduction, with plenty of referrences for further reading.
The Mind's I
Mind expanding essays by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett. Stimulating reading that will open your mind.
Godel, Escher, Bach by D. Hofstadter
Linking together the music of Bach, the graphic art of Escher and the mathematical theorems of Godel, as well as ideas drawn from logic, biology, psyhcology, physics and linguistics, Hofstadter illumnintaes one of the greatest mysteries of modern science: the nature of the human thought process. (Amazon.co.uk synopsis)
'What is a self, and how can a self come out of inaminate matter?' This is the riddle that drove Hofstadter to write this extraordinary book. Linking together the music of J.S. Bach, the graphic art of Escher and the mathematical theorems of Godel, as well as ideas drawn from logic, biology, psychology, physics and linguistics, Douglas Hofstadter illuminates one of the greatest mysteries of modern science: the nature of human thought processes. 'Every few decades an unknown author brings outa book of such depth, clarity, range, wit, beauty and originality that it is recognized at once as a major literary event. This is such a work' - Martin Gardner
One Two Three...Infinity : Facts and Speculations of Science
is a highly accessible read on the more entertaining aspects of mathematics and science.
The book is divided into four sections: 1) Playing with Numbers 2) Space, Time and Einstein 3) Microcosmos
As Gamow writes in the preface to the updated 1961 edition (it was first published in 1947), "all books on science are apt to become out of date a few years after publication."
However, despite the myriad advances that have been made since this book was last updated, it is still far from anachronistic, and it is even considered by many to be something of a classic.
For some it will read as an interesting first introduction to some of the peculiarities of science and mathematics, while for others it may serve as an interesting archive of scientific thought. The chapter on
Einstein and Relativity is particularly good as an introduction the the wonders of Einstein's remarkable theory.
Finally, readers may find that the section describing the "macrocosmos" serves as interesting prelude to the more up to date
The Five Ages of the Universe
The Five Ages of the Universe
by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin.
Two brilliant young physicists, Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin,
captured the attention of the world when they announced they had identified the
five ages of time. But is it possible for us to know the complete
life story of the universe from beginning to end?
The astonishing truth is that recent study has defined the essential
mechanisms of astrophysics so well that science can now determine the five
ages the universe will go through over its ten thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion - year existence. We now know how the cosmos was born, how it grew up, how it will shuffle into its old age, and how it will celebrate its googolth (10"superscript 100") birthday. With The Five Ages of the Universe, the mythologies of eternity and apocalypse can now be matched against scientific fact. Adams and Laughlin study the far future of a universe that, according to current astronomical observations, will expand forever. They show what will actually happen if a black hole enters our solar system, how life might exist beyond the atmosphere of a white dwarf, even how new universes could be produced and how we would travel to them. (Card catalog description.)
The Annotated Alice
Martin Gardner's classic edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking-Glass, annotated to explain the wealth of hidden references in the books: mathematics, chess, logic, Victorian politics, the original poems Carroll parodied, and much more.
The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie
by Thomas Fink and Yong Mao
Two theorical physicists prove that, within the constraints that they set, there are indeed 85 ways to tie a tie.
This book is hugely entertaining, including a brief history of ties, an introduction to simple topography and knot theory (did you know that the simplest knot is not really a knot at all, and is called, appropriately, the unknot) and, of course, an easy to follow guide of all the different ways to tie a tie.
A very slim volume, this is a book you can read in an evening and refer to for the rest of your life.
by Joseph Heller.
At the heart of Joseph Heller's bestselling novel, first published in 1961, is a satirical indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it. It is the tale of the dangerously sane Captain Yossarian, who spends his time in Italy plotting to survive. (Amazon synopsis.)
"There was only one catch and that was Catch 22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind . . . Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to."
by John L. Casti.
This work recreates the solutions to the five greatest mathematical problems of all time: The Four-Colour Map Problem, Fermat's Last Theorem, The Continuum Hypothesis, Kepler's Conjecture, and Hilbert's Tenth Problem. The author recounts these mathematical quests emphasizing the human aspect. In retelling the story of Hilbert's Tenth Problem, for instance, he sweeps from Britain to New York to Leningrad and introduces us to such luminaries as Alan Turing, before turning to the young Soviet researcher who credited his breakthrough to a 700 year-old Italian problem about rabbits. He describes how Fermat's Last Theorem tantalized generations of scientists, who tried for three centuries to answer it, and relates how the final solution was greeted with the unprecedented front-page headlines, prize money, and international celebration - before a flaw (soon resolved) turned up. Casti's account of the struggle to solve Kepler's Conjecture wittily reveals how the "proof of the obvious" sometimes eludes us for centuries. (Amazon.co.uk synopsis)
A Devil's Chaplain
by Richard Dawkins.
Those unfamiliar with the writings of Richard Dawkins could do worse than begin with The Devil's Chaplain-–a collection of pieces selected from the many articles, lectures, book reviews, polemics, forewords, essays and tributes written over a 25-year period.
The book is divided into seven sections containing a mixture of pieces of varying lengths covering several themes-- including Darwinism, morality, education, justice, history of science and, of course, religion. Dawkins provides a brief preamble to each of the seven sections while the pieces themselves, selected by Editor Latha Menon, show Dawkins at his captivating best and sometimes his angry, self-righteous side.
Dawkins at his best is peerless as an expositor of the wonders of science, a man for whom science is, as he put it "a source of living joy" and this shines through in many, if not most, of the essays.
He is of course Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and while he denies that scientists have special ethical qualifications he does insist that a proper understanding of our animal heritage ought to change the way we think about ourselves--in particular the way we arbitrarily draw the line between species, between, for instance, the human ape and our brothers the Great African apes. Dawkins is generous in his evaluation of his supposed scientific enemies, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, and genuinely moving when paying tribute to his own heroes, people such as Douglas Adams and WD Hamilton.
Dawkins is also the current vice-president of the British Humanist Association and, in certain moods, he turns into a savage anti-religious polemicist. Religious folk for Dawkins are, at best, intellectually irresponsible or existentially immature and, at worst, a bunch of cowardly, irrational, dangerous ignoramuses. Religion itself is likened to a disease, or, more accurately, a deadly virus for which the cure is good, clean scientific habits of mind. The aggressively atheistic side of Dawkins is, in any event, as much a call for intellectual independence as it is a call to arms and he is just as eager to take on the quackery of crystal healing, as he is to expose the pretentious verbosity of postmodernist enemies of scientific truth. But whether Dawkins is writing for his fellow professionals or for the general public, he is considered--by friend and foe alike--he's one of the most intelligent, imaginative and inspirational educators alive. As a whole this collection of pieces conveys a faithful impression of the man and his passions. --Larry Brown
Where is Everybody?
If the Universe Is Teemin with Aliens - Where Is Everybody?: Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life
The Music of the Primes
A fascinating book from start to finish, this is a must read for anyone who has an interest in numbers, and recommended to anyone who hasn't.
Marcus Du Sautoy is a rare breed; a passionate mathematician with a gift for story telling. This history of the study of prime numbers
reads more like a novel than a science book, and whilst the lack of
formulae and figures might frustrate some, most will simply be enthralled by its wonderful
narrative, packed with fascinating insights and delightful anecdotes.
Don't let the unfortunate sight of Sol Cambell on the cover put you off.