Nonplussed!: Mathematical Proof of Implausible Ideas

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9780691120560: Nonplussed!: Mathematical Proof of Implausible Ideas
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Math--the application of reasonable logic to reasonable assumptions--usually produces reasonable results. But sometimes math generates astonishing paradoxes--conclusions that seem completely unreasonable or just plain impossible but that are nevertheless demonstrably true. Did you know that a losing sports team can become a winning one by adding worse players than its opponents? Or that the thirteenth of the month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day? Or that cones can roll unaided uphill? In Nonplussed!--a delightfully eclectic collection of paradoxes from many different areas of math--popular-math writer Julian Havil reveals the math that shows the truth of these and many other unbelievable ideas.



Nonplussed! pays special attention to problems from probability and statistics, areas where intuition can easily be wrong. These problems include the vagaries of tennis scoring, what can be deduced from tossing a needle, and disadvantageous games that form winning combinations. Other chapters address everything from the historically important Torricelli's Trumpet to the mind-warping implications of objects that live on high dimensions. Readers learn about the colorful history and people associated with many of these problems in addition to their mathematical proofs.



Nonplussed! will appeal to anyone with a calculus background who enjoys popular math books or puzzles.


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"Nonplussed!, as the title suggests, is a marvelous study of some two dozen choice mathematical problems that boggle the mind. Unlike so many books on recreational math, Havil doesn't hesitate to give crystal-clear proofs and their necessary equations. John Conway's great checker-jumping puzzle is here, along with amazing nontransitive betting paradoxes and other confounding results almost impossible to believe. No one interested in recreational mathematics on an intermediate advanced level should pass up this stimulating, delightful volume."--Martin Gardner


"In Nonplussed!, his new book of fascinating discussions of mathematical questions, Julian Havil's literary signature is evident even without seeing his name on the cover. The presentation always displays his strong ability to weave together the historical with what is often a surprising mathematical twist, even for those problems that have been around long enough to be called classic. Nonplussed! will be a classic, too."--Paul J. Nahin, author of Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula


"Nonplussed!! is a very interesting and eclectic mix of paradoxes that has the potential to be a very useful and lasting contribution to popular mathematics."--Christopher J. Sangwin, author of Mathematics Galore


"I greatly enjoyed this book and I imagine that anyone who liked high school math will too. Nonplussed! certainly succeeds in surprising-and in giving insightful proofs of the mathematical results discussed. It is a magnificent demonstration of how far even rather straightforward mathematics can take you. And by describing many of the historical characters involved and the problems that motivated them, it makes mathematics seem like an adventure."--Nick Huggett, author of Space from Zeno to Einstein


About the Author:

Julian Havil is a Master at Winchester College, England, where he has taught mathematics for more than thirty years. His previous book was "Gamma: Exploring Euler's Constant" (Princeton).

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