How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

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9780465097678: How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics
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"Whimsical...rigorous and insightful." -- New York Times Book Review
What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen. We learn how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number five, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. At the heart of it all is Cheng's work on category theory, a cutting-edge "mathematics of mathematics," that is about figuring out how math works.

Combined with her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and true zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math is a funny journey through a vast territory no popular book on math has explored before. So, what is math? Let's look for the answer in the kitchen.

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About the Author:

Eugenia Cheng is tenured in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield. She is the Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she currently lives.

Review:

"[Cheng's] book, a very gentle introduction to the main ideas of mathematics in general and category theory in particular, exudes enthusiasm for mathematics, teaching, and creative recipes. Category theory is dangerously abstract, but Cheng's writing is down-to-earth and friendly. She's the kind of person you'd want to talk to at a party, whether about math, food, music, or just the weather.... Cheng's cheerful, accessible writing and colorful examples make How to Bake Pi an entertaining introduction to the fundamentals of abstract mathematical thinking."―Evelyn Lamb, Scientific American's Roots of Unity blog

"[A] slyly illuminating dispatch on the deep meaning of mathematics.... Cheng manages to do for us what the mathematician Keith Devlin has said mathematicians do for themselves: she compels us to see numbers and symbols as vivid characters in an ongoing drama, a narrative in which we are alternately observers and participants."―Natalie Angier, The American Scholar

"[O]ften entertaining...frequently illuminating.... [How to Bake Pi] offers enough nourishment for the brain to chew on for a long time."―Columbus Dispatch

"In her new book, How to Bake Pi, mathematician/baker Eugenia Cheng offers a novel, mathematical approach to cooking.... How to Bake Pi is more than a mathematically-minded cookbook. It is just as much a book about mathematical theory and how we learn it. The premise at the heart of the book is that the problem that stops a cookbook from teaching us how to cook is the same problem that makes math classes so bad at actually teaching us to do math."―Ria Misra, io9

"Cheng never quite overeggs her metaphor of the mathematician as chef...and her tone is clear, clever and friendly. Even at her most whimsical she is rigorous and insightful. Potentially confusing ideas are expressed with a matter-of-fact simplicity.... How to Bake Pi is a welcome addition to the popular-math shelf, unusual not only because of its quirky premise but also because Cheng is a woman, a lucid and nimble expositor, and unashamedly proud of her domestic obsessions.... It would be wonderful if this book attracted a new audience to the field. And there's no better ambassador (or dinner-party host, I'd wager) than Eugenia Cheng."―Alex Bellos, New York Times Book Review

"Combined with infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi...will dazzle, amuse, and enlighten."―Gambit Weekly

"Invoking plenty of examples from cooking and baking, as well as other everyday-life situations such as calculating a taxi fare, searching for love through online dating services and training for a marathon, [Cheng] explains abstract mathematical ideas--including topology and logic--in understandable ways.... Her lively, accessible book demonstrates how important and intriguing such a pursuit can be."―Scientific American

"This is the best book imaginable to introduce someone who doesn't think they are interested in mathematics at all to some of the deep ideas of category theory, especially if they like to bake."―MAA Reviews

"Beginning each chapter with a recipe, Cheng converts the making of lasagna, pudding, cookies, and other comestibles into analogies illuminating the mathematical enterprise. Though these culinary analogies teach readers about particular mathematical principles and processes, they ultimately point toward the fundamental character of mathematics as a system of logic, a system presenting daunting difficulties yet offering rare power to make life easier. Despite her zeal for mathematical logic, Cheng recognizes that such logic begins in faith--irrational faith--and ultimately requires poetry and art to complement its findings. A singular humanization of the mathematical project."―Booklist, starred review

"Cheng is exceptional at translating the abstract concepts of mathematics into ordinary language, a strength aided by a writing style that showcases the workings of her curious, sometimes whimsical mind. This combination allows her to demystify how mathematicians think and work, and makes her love for mathematics contagious."―Publishers Weekly, starred review

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