“Where else does math become a romp, full of entertaining tricks and turns?”—Bryce Christensen, Booklist
Have you ever considered why you always get stuck in the longest line? Why two’s company but three’s a crowd? Or why there are six degrees of separation instead of seven? In this hugely informative and endlessly entertaining book, John D. Barrow takes the most baffling of everyday phenomena and—with simple math, lucid explanations, and illustrations—explains why they work the way they do. His witty, crystal-clear answers shed light on the dark and shadowy corners of the physical world we all think we understand so well.
Barrow (Mathletics), a Cambridge University professor of mathematical sciences and the director of the Millennium Mathematics Project, delves into the many ways mathematics informs art, and more broadly, our daily lives. In concise two- to three-page chapters, Barrow alerts readers to the beauty of mathematics and demonstrates how ubiquitous mathematical concepts are in the world of art. His examples define the arts expansively: the mathematical formula for determining how many guards an art museum needs, why the resonant frequencies in a shower stall make you sound better when singing, and figuring out how long to cook a turkey based on its size. Many of Barrow's examples are within readers' usual frame of reference the shape of an egg, the formation of snowflakes but others are more esoteric, such as the math behind Piet Mondrian's rectangles. Barrow is well versed in mathematics and is fascinated by the topics, but he does not consistently provide accessible explanations. That said, even when he misses, Barrow successfully conveys the idea that mathematics provides a key to understanding both ordinary and extraordinary phenomena.