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!

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