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"Not the least unexpected thing about Mathematics and the Unexpected is that a real mathematician should write not just a literate work, but a literary one."—Ian Stewart, New Scientist "In this brief, elegant treatise, assessable to anyone who likes to think, Ivar Ekelund explains some philosophical implications of recent mathematics. He examines randomness, the geometry involved in making predictions, and why general trends are easy to project (it will snow in January) but particulars are practically impossible (it will snow from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the 21st)."—Village Voice
Ivar Ekeland extends his consideration of the catastrophe theory of the universe begun in his widely acclaimed Mathematics and the Unexpected, by drawing on rich literary sources, particularly the Norse saga of Saint Olaf, and such current topics as chaos theory, information theory, and particle physics. "Ivar Ekeland gained a large and enthusiastic following with Mathematics and the Unexpected, a brilliant and charming exposition of fundamental new discoveries in the theory of dynamical systems. The Broken Dice continues the same theme, and in the same elegant, seemingly effortless style, but focuses more closely on the implications of those discoveries for the rest of human culture. What are chance and probability? How has our thinking about them been changed by the discovery of chaos? What are all of these concepts good for? . . . Ah, but, I mustn't give the game away, any more than I should if I were reviewing a detective novel. And this is just as gripping a tale. . . . Beg, borrow, or preferably buy a copy. . . . I guarantee you won't be disappointed."—Ian Stewart, Science
Optimists believe this is the best of all possible worlds. And pessimists fear that might really be the case. But what is the best of all possible worlds? How do we define it? Is it the world that operates the most efficiently? Or the one in which most people are comfortable and content? Questions such as these have preoccupied philosophers and theologians for ages, but there was a time, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when scientists and mathematicians felt they could provide the answer. This book is their story. Ivar Ekeland here takes the reader on a journey through scientific attempts to envision the best of all possible worlds. He begins with the French physicist Maupertuis, whose least action principle asserted that everything in nature occurs in the way that requires the least possible action. This idea, Ekeland shows, was a pivotal breakthrough in mathematics, because it was the first expression of the concept of optimization, or the creation of systems that are the most efficient or functional. Although the least action principle was later elaborated on and overshadowed by the theories of Leonhard Euler and Gottfried Leibniz, the concept of optimization that emerged from it is an important one that touches virtually every scientific discipline today. Tracing the profound impact of optimization and the unexpected ways in which it has influenced the study of mathematics, biology, economics, and even politics, Ekeland reveals throughout how the idea of optimization has driven some of our greatest intellectual breakthroughs. The result is a dazzling display of erudition—one that will be essential reading for popular-science buffs and historians of science alike.
Unexpected Expectations: The Curiosities of a Mathematical Crystal Ball explores how paradoxical challenges involving mathematical expectation often necessitate a reexamination of basic premises. The author takes you through mathematical paradoxes associated with seemingly straightforward applications of mathematical expectation and shows how these unexpected contradictions may push you to reconsider the legitimacy of the applications. The book requires only an understanding of basic algebraic operations and includes supplemental mathematical background in chapter appendices. After a history of probability theory, it introduces the basic laws of probability as well as the definition and applications of mathematical expectation/expected value (E). The remainder of the text covers unexpected results related to mathematical expectation, including: The roles of aversion and risk in rational decision making A class of expected value paradoxes referred to as envelope problems Parrondo’s paradox—how negative (losing) expectations can be combined to give a winning result Problems associated with imperfect recall Non-zero-sum games, such as the game of chicken and the prisoner’s dilemma Newcomb’s paradox—a great philosophical paradox of free will Benford’s law and its use in computer design and fraud detection While useful in areas as diverse as game theory, quantum mechanics, and forensic science, mathematical expectation generates paradoxes that frequently leave questions unanswered yet reveal interesting surprises. Encouraging you to embrace the mysteries of mathematics, this book helps you appreciate the applications of mathematical expectation, "a statistical crystal ball." Listen to an interview with the author on
Mesopotamian mathematics is known from a great number of cuneiform texts, most of them Old Babylonian, some Late Babylonian or pre-Old-Babylonian, and has been intensively studied during the last couple of decades. In contrast to this Egyptian mathematics is known from only a small number of papyrus texts, and the few books and papers that have been written about Egyptian mathematical papyri have mostly reiterated the same old presentations and interpretations of the texts. In this book, it is shown that the methods developed by the author for the close study of mathematical cuneiform texts can also be successfully applied to all kinds of Egyptian mathematical texts, hieratic, demotic, or Greek-Egyptian. At the same time, comparisons of a large number of individual Egyptian mathematical exercises with Babylonian parallels yield many new insights into the nature of Egyptian mathematics and show that Egyptian and Babylonian mathematics display greater similarities than expected.
Imagine that you’ve finally found a parking space after a long and harrowing search, but are now encountering some difficulty in trying to enter this space. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew a formula that allowed you to enter the space without difficulty? Are you annoyed because your soda can doesn’t remain upright during a picnic? Would you like to know why a mirror swaps right and left, but not top and bottom? Are you looking for a mathematical speech to toast your mother-in-law’s 85th birthday? Or do you want to give your heart away mathematically? Dr. Norbert Herrmann provides amusing and entertaining solutions to these and many other problems that we encounter in everyday situations. “A book for teachers, students of mathematics, and anybody who likes unusual and amusing calculations.”
Gathers paradoxes, logic puzzles, number problems, geometric problems, gambling puzzles, optical illusions, string, word, and chess problems featured in Scientific American

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