Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

Jordan Ellenberg. Penguin Press, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-1-984-87905-9
Math professor Ellenberg (How Not to Be Wrong) shows how challenging mathematics informs real-world problems in this breezy survey. “Geometry,” Ellenberg writes, is “at the heart of what’s required for real figuring in the world,” and in 14 chapters, he covers such questions as why polling works and how artificial intelligence plays chess. In “How Many Holes Does a Straw Have,” he uses topology to prove that the answer is one (pants, meanwhile, have two). Especially relevant are his explanations of the math behind Covid-19 case growth and why more testing makes sense, and how geometry plays into politics. On the thorny issue of redistricting, he convincingly argues that there is significant electoral inequality at play and that math can help solve the problem of gerrymandering. Ellenberg digs into the human side of the science by sharing tales of the feuds and disagreements that punctuated the history of the field (such as a rivalry between a chess master and a computer program) and paying tribute to the genius of the mathematicians whose work underlies today’s disciplines. Math-minded readers will be rewarded with a greater understanding of the world around them. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME. (May)
Reviewed on : 06/10/2021
Release date: 05/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-9848-7907-3
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-9848-7906-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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