Saturday 8 August 2009

Recommended Reading - why would I read about math during my holidays?

If you study computer science in Germany you get a fair bit of math to do - especially in the first year. It is not liked by all students… Nevertheless I have a reading recommendation that has to do with mathematics. I came across the book some month ago in a railway station bookshop - and I immediately liked it ;-)

Der Mathematikverführer by Christoph Drösser. Sample Chapter (in German). Solutions to the stories in the book. Link to the page at Amazon.

The concept of the book is funny (at least I think so) as it put math together with real world questions. And these questions (that are defiantly not really relevant for the survival of mankind) make the book appealing. E.g. how many molecules of Goethe's last breath are you breathing in? Or how far should you empty a bier can before you put it in the sand to minimize the risk of the can tipping over? Or what is the optimal distance to walk behind another person to optimize for visibility of leg length (this may be regarded sexist in the US, it's OK in most parts of Europe)? The travelling sales man problem is also included in the book, wrapped as travelling politician.

The math does not really go beyond high school level but I have learned and revised some math while reading. I learned some interesting facts about the distribution of numbers (Benford's law) - so do not cheat when you do studies or surveys - I will figure it out…

The book is in German - I have not seen an English version of the book...