How many colors are needed to color a map? Must hailstones numbers always fall to the ground? Can statistics prove anything? What is a perfect square, and who has found the ultimate one? How do numbers affect national security? What kinds of problems confront the traveling salesman? Does anyone know how best to pack balls together? What is life like in 4 (or 3 1/2) dimensions? How does a clock count, and why should we care? What number secrets do sunflowers and pine cones conceal? What is a monster doing in mathematics?
These and many other fascinating questions about familiar numbers like 1, 2, and 3 are explored in Malcolm Line's second adventure into the world of numbers. Written in a lively and readable style, Think of a Number relates the story of some of the most famous problems that have confronted the world's experts over the centuries, from the earliest interests of the ancient Greeks to the very cutting-edge of modern research involving today's most powerful computers. The book explores the relationship between numbers and nature in its broadest sense and discovers the beauty of fractals and chaos. Requiring little or no prior knowledge of mathematics, this resource will be fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in numbers and their role in the natural world.
Table of Contents
The Fibonacci family and friends
Rising and falling with the hailstone numbers
Lies, damned lies and statistics
The pluperfect square-an ultimate patio décor
The trouble with Euclid's fifth
Clock numbers-an invention of the Master
Cryptography-the science of secret writing
Numbers and national security
Are four colors enough?
Rulers, dominoes and Professor Golomb
What on earth is an NP-problem?
How many balls can you shake into a can?
In between dimensions
The road to chaos
Supermathematics and the monster
"… eminently readable and thought-provoking book. Lines is that rare author who conscientiously respects his claim that little or no prior knowledge of mathematics is required. All that is necessary is accepting that letters can stand for numbers and an understanding of the basic arithmetical operations plus the use of signs and indices. A useful introductory chapter covers even these basic points in an intelligible way for those who may have forgotten all their schoolwork. … Besides intelligent laypersons, the book should appeal to many mathematically literate scientists and engineers."
-New Scientist, Sept. 1990
"The book is really well written and will be a value-for-money addition to the libraries of problem solvers everywhere."
-Aslib Book List, Nov. 90
"It is written in a lively and readable style. As Asimov confirmed: 'Simply the best book on numbers I ever read.'"
-R. Carchon, Physicalia, No. 2, Feb.1991