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Topic: A New (Big) Book
Message: Posted by: Thomas Henry (Sep 18, 2020 10:49PM)
Hi Friends,

I want to alert you to a new book which I just received today. I got it via Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Mathemagics-Advanced-Mathematics-Connecting-High-level/dp/9811215308/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Mathemagics&qid=1600483321&sr=8-2

The full title is (and very full it is!): [i]Mathemagics: A Magical Journey through Advanced Mathematics, Connecting More Than 60 Magic Tricks to High-Level Math.[/i]

Having been delivered only a dozen hours ago, I've obviously read only around twenty pages of it, but that's enough to form an initial opinion. Allow me to report how it strikes me so far.

First off, this is a large book at 380 pages, printed in color no less, and full of ideas I've not seen elsewhere. Most mathematical magic books dwell primarily on properties of nine, or perhaps card effects only, but this one is all over the place. For all those reasons, the price of $38 is well-justified.

What makes it so very unusual is that the authors have woven their analyses of the various methods so to shed light on or serve as introductions to some standard undergraduate mathematics courses: Methods of Proof, Probability, Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra, Computing Theory, Number Theory, Coding Theory, Geometry, Topology, Real Analysis, Numerical Analysis and the History of Mathematics. The idea is that an in-coming college student would be exposed to a little of what makes up these areas of mathematics, all through their application to magic effects, before actually selecting some of these courses to enroll in.

Or going in the reverse direction, the magician will be exposed to a rigorous treatment of various methods, through actual magic effects, and thus will be in a better position to design new ones for himself or herself.

In either case, the prerequisite is nothing more than high-school algebra, and perhaps a willingness to slow down and think about the ideas as they're developed within the text. Remarkably, each chapter includes exercises, with solutions to the odd problems in the back of the book.

It really is a most unusual book, and I can already see it's going to keep me occupied for many, many profitable hours.

The mathematics seems to be thorough and rigorous, yet developed in a friendly way. Now for the bad part. The writing style is amazingly bad. It reads for all the world as something a student in a freshman composition class would pen the first day before learning anything. There are run-together sentences, incomplete sentences, mixed tenses, subject/verb disagreement, awkward constructions, missing hyphens in what ought to be hyphenated, erratic pluralization or lack thereof, and more. On the bright side of things, the spelling appears okay though!

Now remember, I've only read a fraction of the book so far, but this weakness stands out.

I'm not being a fuss-budget here; because of these problems, the reading is not as smooth or easy as it ought to be in such a fun book. Again, it's not because of the content (which is great) but because of the style (which is crying for an editor). It's very clear any legitimate editor or proofreader, had one been called upon, would have worn out dozens of red pencils.

In a way, reading this reminds me of what it feels like to read a book written in something other than your native tongue. The concepts come through, and everything makes sense eventually, but the hesitations, re-reads and head-scratching render it anything other than a smooth process.

Having said all that, I still highly recommend the book for its wealth of interesting idea-starters in magic, and also for its clever way of introducing the reader to a variety of areas of mathematics. Just as one example, the Si Stebbins stack is explored within the context of Group Theory. Cool idea!

So in a nutshell: it's going to be a truly useful book for me, even if I do have to fight the composition style in the process. I'm sure it was money well spent.

Thomas Henry
Message: Posted by: murf (Sep 19, 2020 01:41PM)
Your comments on the writing style remind me of some of the discussions we've had at work about unreadable technical specifications produced by some of the biggest high tech companies. I'll say "Why don't these people hire English speaking editors to proof read these documents?", and someone will "explain" to me "Because the writers are convinced that they speak perfect English."

Murf
Message: Posted by: Daniel Le Bateleur (Nov 3, 2020 07:40AM)
This book seems very interesting. Can you tell me how it compares to two other books with a similar subject? (if you have read them that is) thanks

Mathematical Card Magic: Fifty-Two New Effects, by Colm Mulcahy
and
Magical Mathematics, by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham

My interest in magic started when I discovered the close link between math and the first card tricks that we all learn.

Daniel
Message: Posted by: Slim King (Dec 15, 2020 07:13PM)
Just ordered mine..... :sun: