Serious mathematics at its intriguing, transporting best.



A wide-ranging sojourn into geometry and how it can be applied to real-life situations.

Even for the math-averse, there is something indelibly “primal” and useful about geometry, at least of the Euclidean variety. As University of Wisconsin math professor Ellenberg is quick to note, however, “geometry is the cilantro of math. Few are neutral.” As the author shows, it’s a subject on the move, providing new insights and deployments. “We are living in a wild geometric boomtown, global in scope,” writes Ellenberg in this often humorous, anecdotally rich dive into numerous mathematical theories. (His accessible approach carries over from How Not To Be Wrong, his 2014 bestseller.) The author feels that geometry has a lot to do with integrity and honesty, but he doesn’t want to sacrifice intuition at the altar of logical deduction: “We start from our intuitions about shapes in the physical world (where else could we start?), we analyze closely our sense of the way those shapes look and move, so precisely that we can talk about them without relying on our intuition if we need to.” Ellenberg introduces readers to a bevy of relatable mathematical concepts: the “theory of the random walk” and its implications regarding the unpredictable nature of the stock market; “tree geometry” and how it might help you win certain games; the algorithms that work their ways into tennis matches and the World Series as well as some that recall a bunch of monkeys at typewriters, “reducing literary texts to a binary sequence of consonants and vowels.” Also eye-opening are the author’s discussions of pandemics—progression, decay, and the math of herd immunity—and how geometric processes can “model smallpox, scarlet fever, train derailments, and steam boiler explosions.” In the penultimate chapter, “How Math Broke Democracy (and Might Still Save It),” Ellenberg offers an engrossing discussion of how geometry can help in the fight against gerrymandering.

Serious mathematics at its intriguing, transporting best.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984879-05-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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