Parker should be commended. He may not convert all readers to loving math, but he does provide a glimmer of understanding of...

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THINGS TO MAKE AND DO IN THE FOURTH DIMENSION

A MATHEMATICIAN'S JOURNEY THROUGH NARCISSISTIC NUMBERS, OPTIMAL DATING ALGORITHMS, AT LEAST TWO KINDS OF INFINITY, AND MORE

Guardian and Telegraph writer and comedian Parker aims “to show people all the fun bits of mathematics.”

For starters, take out paper and pencil, compass, straight edge, maybe a balloon or a bag of oranges, because the author will challenge you to tackle puzzles, whether it’s cutting a pizza in equal slices so some pieces never touch the center or passing a quarter through a nickel-size hole. Parker begins with the easier elements like number systems, primes and the polygons of Euclidean geometry. But his approach has the acceleration of a Ferrari, so readers are quickly racing into higher dimensional space. Parker explains how a square becomes a cube in 3-D and a hypercube (a tesseract) in four dimensions or a doughnut (a torus) becomes an object called a Klein bottle. This branch of math is topology, but in arriving there, Parker makes forays into subfields like tiling (think bathroom floors), packing (how to ship oranges efficiently) and knot theory. Some readers will lose their way—the visualizations alone are tough. Also, by this point, it’s clear that the author does not aspire to create a math-for-dummies handbook. Instead, he provides one man’s take on the history of math, emphasizing the puzzles that led to profound discoveries or to tantalizing conjectures that remain neither proved nor disproved. But this one man is also a dedicated denizen of the digital universe, and some of the best parts of the book are Parker’s explanations of how computers work. This includes the feat in which he and math colleagues set up a field of thousands of dominoes to demonstrate how a computer adds two binary numbers. Parker goes on to explain how smartphones digitally code a photo and why a text sent across the globe arrives error-free despite all the relays along the way.

Parker should be commended. He may not convert all readers to loving math, but he does provide a glimmer of understanding of how it works.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0374275655

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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