Non-Fiction Reviews


The Universe and the Teacup: the mathematics of truth and beauty

(1998) K.C. Cole, Little Brown, 12.99, hdbk, 202pp, ISBN 0-316-64425-0

A curious overview of concepts mathematical, with the singular intention of trying to relate them to the everyday world. For instance, so-called democratic voting measures are taken apart mathematically to show how first-past-the-post differs from, say, proportional representation and the difficulties inherent in trying to be democratic. Or trying to show how mathematics explains why, as you get older, the years seem to go flying by faster and faster -- think of a year as a percentage of your lifespan as you move through time... Cole write's in the style of an understanding older sister, who's trying to explain why the world is unfair to a younger relative, while at the same time trying to inject some enthusiasm for life into the subject. In this she does quite well, and I'm all for a positive book now and again, especially if it succeeds in demystifying maths enough that people forget to be frightened of it, but I doubt the calculator industry has anything to worry about...

Tony Chester


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