Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions

Brian Hayes, Author . Hill & Wang $25 (269p) ISBN 978-0-8090-5219-6

In charming prose that more or less makes up for the relative lack of rigor in many of his explorations, about which Hayes is refreshingly honest (“I see no reason to doubt this assumption, at least as an approximation, but I also have no evidence to support it”), science and technology journalist Hayes (Infrastructure ) explains the engineering and arithmetic of clocks and gears, wracks his brain over questions of how best to flip a mattress and visits “the prettiest wrong idea in all of twentieth-century science... the vision of piglets suckling on messenger RNA.” As he examines huge calculating tables rendered obsolete by computers, Hayes “cannot help wondering which of my labors will appear equally quaint and pathetic to some future reader.” This observation is echoed by the afterwords where Hayes addresses pointed questions and observations from readers, displaying a brave willingness to admit error and acknowledge advances made since these pieces were first published in the Sciences and American Scientist . Present-day readers would do best to approach this collection more for its literary merits than its revelation of obscure history or cutting-edge mathematical theory. 41 b&w illus. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2007
Release date: 04/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 269 pages - 978-0-8090-5217-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4299-3857-0
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