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The Jungles of Randomness: A Mathematical Safariby Ivars Peterson
Synopses & Reviews
The Jungles of Randomness Join acclaimed science writer Ivars Peterson on an adventurous trek through an exotic world of weird dice, fractal drums, firefly rhythms and chaotic amusement park rides, as he explores the wilds of randomness. A tricky, intriguing, even elusive concept, randomness affects our lives in an astonishing range of ways-from the fun of games we play and the noise that spoils the music we hear, to the ways viruses grow and atoms combine. Hidden rules and secret patterns lurk within apparently random events and chance encounters. How likely is it that a fair coin will land heads up ten times in a row? How often might you meet a stranger at a party who shares your birthday? Are there really ways to win at roulette or beat a slot machine? How does the gait of a horse differ from that of a cockroach? Peterson uncovers the answers to a rich array of such tantalizing questions, revealing the surprising, ambiguous boundaries between order and chaos. An eye-opening discovery awaits at every turn, from the simple secret behind winning a game of Chutes and Ladders, to why any group of six people must include at least three acquaintances or three strangers, and why you can scratch a compact disk and still get flawless sound. We learn how a game of darts can provide a remarkably good estimate of the value of , how pacemaker cells in the heart begin to beat in synchrony, and how carefully designed chaos translates into the thrilling ride of a Tilt-A-Whirl. Along the way we also meet a host of characters, both charming and eccentric, who either made striking discoveries about randomness or were profoundly affected by it. There's the case of Williard Longcor, a man gripped with a passion for throwing dice, who meticulously records the outcomes of millions of tosses and helps correct the theory of the distribution of runs. And there's the tragic case of the brilliant novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who became addicted to the random spin of the roulette wheel. The "wandering mathematician" Paul Erdos drops in with his famous greeting "my brain is open," and the visionary architect Buckminster Fuller remarks on the similarities between his geodesic domes and the structure of viruses. In Peterson's words, "Mathematics encompasses the joy of solving puzzles, the exhilaration of subduing stubborn problems, the thrill of discerning patterns and making sense of apparent nonsense, and the immense satisfaction of nailing down an eternal truth." The Jungles of Randomness offers a delightful journey into the exciting world of mathematical discovery and imparts a rare vision of the fundamental playfulness of mathematics in our lives.
Praise for The Jungles of Randomness
"Ivars Peterson is, in short, the math teacher everyone wishes they had in high school." —Publishers Weekly
"When many people think about mathematicians, they imagine solitary scholars whiling away the hours . . . Ivars Peterson delightfully debunks that stereotype. Peterson shows that mathematicians are, increasingly, a gregarious bunch and that the problems they work on are vitally important to us. . . . Best of all, Peterson makes it fun." —Washington Post
"Peterson has honed his explanatory skills finely. He is a readable guide through the tangles of probability and random chance. The Jungles of Randomness will give some insight into one of the most fruitful areas where math meets practical living." —Christian Science Monitor
"Peterson finds a fascinating collection of circumstances where chance intervenes in our lives and in the world around us. Every reader, regardless of background, is bound to find something new and interesting in this book." —Robert Osserman Author of Poetry of the Universe
"Peterson's knowledge of and affection for mathematics comes through with every word."--San Diego Union Tribune.
"Peterson is, in short, the math teacher everyone wishes they had in high school."--Publishers Weekly.
"Peterson has honed his explanatory skills finely. He is a readable guide through the tangles of probability and random chance. The Jungles of Randomness will give some insight into one of the most fruitful areas where math meets practical living."--Christian Science Monitor.
The delightful trek through the exotic and powerful world of randomness.
Popular math author Ivars Peterson leads readers on an exciting foray into the wilds of randomness, introducing exciting new discoveries--from hidden rules governing games of chance to how the first molecules of life formed and how random numbers can protect sensitive information on the Internet. Along the way, he charts the ambiguous boundary between order and chaos, revealing the astonishing patterns so often hidden in apparent randomness as well as the startling randomness often embedded in apparent order.
Ivars Peterson (Washington, D.C.) is the mathematics and physics editor at Science News and the author of four previous trade books, including The Mathematical Tourist and Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise.
About the Author
IVARS PETERSON is one of today's most popular math authors. He is the mathematics and physics editor of Science News, and the author of four previous books, including the bestselling The Mathematical Tourist and Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise. Mr. Peterson received the award for "exceptional skill in communicating mathematics to the general audience" in 1991 from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics.
Table of Contents
The Die Is Cast.
Sea of Life.
Call of the Firefly.
Trials of a Wanderer.
Gambling with Numbers.
Lifetimes of Chance.
What Our Readers Are Saying
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