Einstein’s Twin: Mind-Bending Puzzles and Paradoxes from the World of Science
Website designer Stangroom (Is Your Neighbor a Zombie?
) assembles an amusing collection of scientific conundrums to entertain and instruct the curious. He lays out his work like a puzzle book, with questions up front and solutions in the back, beginning with some basic logic puzzles, including examinations of syllogisms (e.g., if one accepts the premise that “every animal with a tail is vicious” and the commonsensical observation that “a golden retriever is not vicious,” then it follows that a “golden retriever is not an animal with a tail”) and probability (in which a hypothetical “security operative” must press one of three buttons to ensure a hostage’s safety, a version of what seasoned puzzle solvers will recognize as the Monty Hall problem). Pressing on, readers will encounter headier ideas, including Schrödinger’s cat, the possibility of alternative universes, and the prospect that this universe exists only as an elaborate simulation within another world. They will also find discussions of why Stangroom’s solutions work, meaning that, upon reaching the last puzzle, brainteaser neophytes will have gained much “practice making sense of the apparently nonsensical,” just as the author hopes. While none of Stangroom’s head-scratchers is new, he does a good job of making the concepts and skills involved in unraveling them accessible to a wide audience. (Dec.)