Synopses & Reviews
When Archimedes, while bathing, suddenly hit upon the principle of buoyancy, he ran wildly through the streets of Syracuse, stark naked, crying "eureka!" In
The Moment of Proof, Donald Benson attempts to convey to general readers the feeling of eureka--the joy of discovery--that mathematicians feel when they first encounter an elegant proof.
This is not an introduction to mathematics so much as an introduction to the pleasures of mathematical thinking. And indeed the delights of this book are many and varied. The book is packed with intriguing conundrums--Loyd's Fifteen Puzzle, the Petersburg Paradox, the Chaos Game, the Monty Hall Problem, the Prisoners' Dilemma--as well as many mathematical curiosities. We learn how to perform the arithmetical proof called "casting out nines" and are introduced to Russian peasant multiplication, a bizarre way to multiply numbers that actually works. The book shows us how to calculate the number of ways a chef can combine ten or fewer spices to flavor his soup (1,024) and how many people we would have to gather in a room to have a 50-50 chance of two having the same birthday (23 people). But most important, Benson takes us step by step through these many mathematical wonders, so that we arrive at the solution much the way a working scientist would--and with much the same feeling of surprise.
Every fan of mathematical puzzles will be enthralled by The Moment of Proof. Indeed, anyone interested in mathematics or in scientific discovery in general will want to own this book.
Review
"Rarely does one come across a mathematics book with such breadth and insight. Dr. Benson's book contains valuable information--not only for curious students and laypeople --but also for seasoned researchers. Particularly fascinating is the curious range of topics, from fractals and fiendishly difficult games to the mathematics of precariously-leaning brick towers! All the topics are sure to stimulate readers' imagination and sense of wonder at the incredible vastness of our mathematical universe." --Dr. Clifford Pickover, author of
Time: A Traveler's Guide"A useful book, offering a rich collection of interesting and enjoyable mathematics." --Reuben Hersh, author of What is Mathematics, Really?
"Donald Benson shows what mathematicians mean when they speak of the beauty of mathematics -- an artistic beauty of logical elegance and occassionally surprise." --Keith Devlin, author of The Language of Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible and Life by the Numbers
About the Author
Donald C. Benson is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis. He lives in Davis, California.