In the Library · Math · Science · Ying L

Cows in the Maze | by Ian Stewart

Cows in the Maze by Ian Stewart
(Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2010, 306 pages)

Ian Stewart is one of my favorite science writers. He teaches mathematics at the University of Warwick, England. This book is a collection of author’s articles from Mathematical Explorations column of Scientific American. There are 21 chapters filled with fascinating stories and intriguing puzzles. Most chapters stand alone; you can pick and choose which puzzle or problem fancies you the most.  At the end of each chapter, Stewart lists books and articles for further readings and web sites for more information. I found lots of wonderful web sites that are educational and fun. Several chapters also investigate time travel and the shape of a teardrop. Did you know that the shapes of teardrops are not tear-drop shaped at all? Start on these chapters if you are into physics as well. If you love a probability challenge, begin with Chapter 12.

This is a “hands-on” book. High school math? Good enough! You’ll want to have pencils and scrape papers ready to try out the probabilities of totals of two dice. With a thin card, a glue stick and a pair of scissors, you can make a sphericon.  Find a friend and a piece of soft, smooth string (3 feet long), you are on your way to meet the Cat’s Cradle Calculus Challenge. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of math and/or physics. Look up The magical maze and How to cut a cake by Stewart, too.  You won’t be disappointed.  Wait, I just heard cows moo in the maze;-).

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