Thursday, March 09, 2017


Logicomix is the story of the logician Bertrand Russell, as told by the man himself, as told by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, drawn by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna. It is not a book about logic, or the history of logic, or how to live your life in the most logical manner. It really is a story about a real person, and I think it's really well done. For real.

The story follows Bertrand Russell from when he was a very small boy, and was still learning about how to see the world around him. Russell learns of the beauty and elegance in proofs, and sets off to try and prove all the things! This is the meat of the book, and it reads as thrilling a story as any.

This story is told via flashback, as Russell gives a talk to agitated peace protestors during World War II. This, in addition to letting Russell narrate, gives more direction to the story as a whole.

But Logicomix is not just that story. It also tells a part of the story of how Logicomix came to be, showing the day when Christos comes on board to help. Russell's story is presented with the authors and artists talking about what to include in the story. The whole layered narrative thing is fun, partly because so many people can interject, which colors the story just that little bit more. It is very well done.

So, if you think a story about searching for truth told through layered narratives sounds cool, then you should read Logicomix. And also I guess if you like logic or whatever. Or if you're curious about what logic even is, but don't want to actually do any of the hard stuff. Then this is a good book for you. Yep, I am happy with this paragraph's construction.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects

The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects, edited by Jennifer Beineke and Jason Rosenhouse and written by a whole bunch of people, does not have an interesting title. I'd guess that, for the vast majority of people, the book is just as boring as it sounds. However, for math nerds like me, it's really interesting, and a fun introduction to how math is done in "the real world."

The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects is a collection of 17 chapters, each written by different folks, and each about the some sort of game or puzzle. All of them (except maybe the first two) are heavy in mathematical language and notation. Some chapters explain the background really well, others not so much. I straight-up skipped a few of the chapters. The ones that I did read were, for the most part, very interesting. There's a lot of variety to the subjects of the chapters. One might go so far as to say that there are various entertaining subjects.

That's about as much as I can say without going into the individual subjects in depth. So, let's look at one of the subjects. I present to you the heart of my favorite chapter, lucky 13, by Maureen T. Carroll and Steven T. Dougherty. It's about tic-tac-toe on what are called "affine planes." The smallest interesting affine plane is this:
Tic-tac-toe is played on this plane the same way as on a normal one, but on this plane there are four extra lines (the big curvy ones). This looks complicated, but all that happens to tic-tac-toe is that four more winning arrangements are added:
These new four are the last ones on the bottom, and they make a sort of diagonal T-shape. Try getting together with a friend and seeing what this changes. I spent an entire period of Physics class messing with these, and had more fun than was probably warranted.

So, if you think you want to see some fancy math, most of which isn't presented for beginners, then read The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects. If you don't, then don't. If you're not sure, then start with a friendlier math book. I've got a lot of them in the "numbers" tag now.

Have a good day and a great life. Peace!