cover of "cabinet" book

Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

number 6
among all books
on on 27
January 2009

number 1

in science and nature

number 1

in the "Hot 100"
January Sales List

published in the UK by Profile - order from

published in North America by Basic Books - order from
  Watch out for:

 Professor  Stewart's  Hoard of  Mathematical  Treasures

  October 2009

A collection of over 180 mathematical curios, ranging from one-liners to buzzword essays. The ideal gift for the mathematician in your life.

Curiosities is a miscellany of intriguing mathematical games, puzzles, stories, and factoids. Most items stand by themselves, so you can dip in at almost any point. A few form short mini-series. I incline to the view that a miscellany should be miscellaneous, and this one is.
        The games and puzzles include some old favourites, which tend to reappear from time to time, and often cause renewed excitement when they do—the car and the goats, and the 12-ball weighing puzzle, both caused a huge stir in the media: one in the USA, the other in the UK. A lot of the material is new, specially designed for this book. I’ve striven for variety, so there are logic puzzles, geometric puzzles, numerical puzzles, probability puzzles, odd items of mathematical culture, things to do, and things to make.
        One of the virtues of knowing a bit of maths is that you can impress the hell out of your friends. (Be modest about it, though, that’s my advice. You can also annoy the hell out of your friends.) A good way to achieve this desirable goal is to be up to speed on the latest buzzwords. So I’ve scattered some short ‘essays’ here and there, written in an informal, non-technical style. The essays explain some of the recent breakthroughs that have featured prominently in the media. Things like Fermat’s Last Theorem—remember the TV programme? And the Four Colour Theorem, the Poincaré Conjecture, Chaos Theory, Fractals, Complexity Science, Penrose Patterns. Oh, and there are also some unsolved questions, just to show that maths isn’t all done. Some are recreational, some serious—like the P=NP? problem, for which a million-dollar prize is on offer. You may not have heard of the problem, but you need to know about the prize.
        Shorter, snappy sections reveal interesting facts and discoveries about familiar but fascinating topics: π, prime numbers, Pythagoras’ Theorem, permutations, tilings. Amusing anecdotes about famous mathematicians add a historical dimension and give us all a chance to chuckle sympathetically at their endearing foibles…