Math & Science
Reading for Pleasure

Einstein's Heroes: Imagining the World Through the Language of Mathematics
Robyn Arianhod. Oxford University Press, 2005.
In this blend of science, history, and biography, the author reveals the mysteries of mathematics, focusing on the lives and work of Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday & James Clark. Arianhod bridges the gap between science & literature, portraying mathematics as a powerful language that can accurately describe things one cannot see or even imagine.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
Dan Ariely. Harper, 2008.
We should know better...and yet we keep making the same irrational decisions. We overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Why? Ariely, an MIT behavioral economist, describes the effects of factors such as expectations, emotions, and social norms on human reasoning--like why we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet even we are already full & pay more than $4 for a cup of coffee, why we believe that the more we spend on something means we are getting a btter product, and why otherwise honest people never think twice about stealing office supplies.

One Hundred Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains the World
John D. Barrow. Norton, 2009.
Why are there six degrees of separation instead of seven? Why should yout hink twice about running that air conditioner in the summer? Why is your image in the mirror always one-half the size of your real face? What really are the odds of winning the lottery? Eminent math professor Barrow explains it all for you.

How Stuff Works
Marshal Brain. Hungry Minds, 2001.
Easy to understand language and beautiful full color illustrations help reveal the technology and scientific principles that are all around us. Fully explained, are such miraculous and mysterious devices as the catalytic converter, microwave ovens, cable tv, fireworks, microprocessors and even nuclear reactors. Created by the same people who produce the award winning How Stuff Works website, this collection has something for everyone who wonders just how the machines and technologies around us actually work.

Coincidences, Chaos & All That Math Jazz
Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird. Norton, 2005.
So you think math is dull? You'll chance your mind by the time Burger and Starbird are through with you. This accesible and enjoyable book explains all manners of weighty matters such as Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio with humor and insight as they reveal the "easy" math beneath the oridnary things in life.

The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat & the 17th-Century Letter that Made the World Modern
Keith Devlin. Basic, 2008.
Before the mid-seventeenth century, scholars generally agreed that it was impossible to predict something by calculating mathematical outcomes, so speculating about the future was beyond the capability of man. Then Blaise Pascal wrote to Pierre de Fermat in 1654, outlining a solution to the “unfinished game” problem: how do you divide the pot when players are forced to end a game of dice before someone has won? The idea turned out to be far more seminal than Pascal realized. From it, the two men developed the method known today as probability theory. By the same author:
The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers are Like Gossip (2000).

Beyond Reason: Eight Great Problems that Reveal the Limits of Science
A. K. Dewdney. Wiley, 2004.
Are some scientific problems insoluble? How it is that some problems with simple yes/no answers will never be answered by a computer, no matter how it is programmed? Why will we never be able to predict the weather accurately more than four days in advance? Dewdney answers these questions and others by examining eight insurmountable mathematical and scientific roadblocks that have stumped thinkers across the centuries, from ancient mathematical conundrums such as "squaring the circle," first attempted by the Pythagoreans, to Godel's theorem, from perpetual motion to the upredictable behavior of chaotic systems such as the weather.

What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Richard P. Feynman. W.W. Norton and Company, 1991.
A thoughtful companion volume to the earlier Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman!. The most intriguing parts of the book are the behind-the-scenes descriptions of science and policy colliding in the presidential commission to determine the cause of the Challenger space shuttle explosion; and the scientific sleuthing behind his famously elegant O-ring-in-ice-water demonstration. Not as rollicking as his other memoirs, but in some ways more profound.

Dry Storeroom #1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum
Richard Forety. Knopf, 2008.
Take a fascinating journey behind the scenes at London's world-famous Natural History Museum and meet the dedicated people care for its many treasures who create its exhibits. By the same author: Earth: An Intimate History (2004); Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution (2000)

One to Nine: The Inner Life of Numbers
Andrew Hodges. Norton, 2008.
From the unloved one to the joy of six, and beyond Hodges, one of Britain’s leading biographers and mathematical writers, charts the place of the numbers one through nine in mathematics and culture and finds a new twist to everything from musical harmony to code breaking, from the chemistry of sunflowers to the mystery of magic squares.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers
Paul Hoffman. Hyperion, 1998.
A mathematical genius of the first order, Paul Erdos was totally obsessed with his subject. He thought and wrote mathematics for 19 hours a day until the day he died. He traveled constantly, living out of a plastic bag, and had no interest in food, sex, companionship or art. He was a man who could solve, in minutes, the kind of equations that stumped teams of mathematicians for weeks, but could not fix his own cereal without destroying the kitchen. This biography details the strange life of one of the most prolific and eccentric mathematicians of our time.

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Douglas R. Hofstadter. Vintage Books, 1989.
Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts and won the Pulitzer Prize, Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think.

The Art of the Infinite: The Pleasures of Mathematics
Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan. Oxford University Press, 2003
In tracing the history of infinity from Pythagoras--whose great Theorem led inexorably to a discovery that his followers tried in vain to keep secret--through Descartes and Leibniz; to the brilliant, haunted Georg Cantor--who proved that infinity can come in different sizes--the Kaplans show how the attempt to grasp the ungraspable embodies the essence of mathematics.

How It Happens: The Extraordinary Processes of Everyday Things
Barbara Ann Kipfer. Random House, 2005
Explores the mysteries of how caffeine perks you up, how popcorn pops, and how they get those holes in Swiss Cheese.

The Human Zoo
Desmond Morris. Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1969.
Desmond Morris is a trained zoologist who focuses his attention on the human animal and describes what he sees, as if he were studying any other animal in its natural habitat. Morris draws many parallels between human and other animals' behavior, and makes you question how different we really are from our fellow animals. A fascinating read that will give you a different perspective on socialization, sex, status and other human mysteries.

The Evolution of Useful Things
Henry Petroski. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.
This surprising book may appear to be about the simple things of life - forks, paper clips, zippers - but in fact it is a far-flung historical adventure on the evolution of common culture. To trace the fork's history, Duke University professor of civil engineering Henry Petroski travels from prehistoric times to Texas barbecue to Cardinal Richelieu to England's Industrial Revolution to the American Civil War, and beyond. Each item described offers a cultural history lesson, plus there's plenty of engineering detail as well, for those who want it.

Beyond Numeracy: Ruminations of a Numbers Man
John Allen Poulos. Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
Beyond Numeracy is, according to the introduction, "in part a dictionary, in part a collection of short mathematical essays, and in part the ruminations of a numbers man." This book is genuinely different from other books on mathematics intended for a wide audience as the 70 essay topics he writes on, are exceptionally diverse. Titles include "Human Consciousness, Its Fractal Nature" and "Mathematics in Ethics." Paulos's unique sense of humor and ability to intelligently editorialize are abundant.

Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown
Michael Shermer. Times Books, 2005.
What do we know and what do we not know? How does science respond to controversy, attack, and uncertainty? When does theory become accepted fact? Shermer--psychologist, science historian, and founder of Skeptic magazine--presents 14 essays on the barriers and biases that both plague and propel science. In one piece he demonstrates how easily a poseur (in this case, himself) can give convincing psychic readings, in another he disputes so-called intelligent design theory of creationism, and in a third he describes trying unproven treatments to help his dying mother. Fascinating and though-provoking.

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman. T. Dunne, 2007.
What would happen to Earth planet If the human species were suddenly extinguished? After mankind's infrastructures crumbled, flooded or suffered melt-down (there are, indeed, more than 400 nuclear power plants in the world), would nature go on? A thought-provoking study of our impact on our planet and other living things.

A New Kind Of Science
Stephen Wolfram. Wolfram Media, Inc. 2002.
This long-awaited work from one of the world's most respected scientists presents a series of dramatic discoveries never before made public. Starting from a collection of simple computer experiments, illustrated in the book by striking computer graphics , Wolfram shows how their unexpected results force a whole new way of looking at the operation of our universe. Written with exceptional clarity, and illustrated by more than a thousand original pictures, this seminal book allows scientists and non-scientists alike to participate in what promises to be a major intellectual revolution.

What Einstein Told His Barber: More Scientific Answer to Everyday Questions
Robert L. Wolke. Dell Publishing, 2000.
If you've ever wondered why the ocean is blue or why birds don't get electrocuted when perching on high voltage power line, you're about to find out. Wolke provides amazing and witty explanations to everyday phenomena such as gravity, why heat rises, why rubber stretches and other amazing mysteries of everyday life.

The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason and Byron's Daughter
Benjamin Woolley. McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Known in her day as the “Enchantress of Numbers,” Ada Lovelace was one of the most fascinating women of the 19th century. The daughter of Lord Byron, the poet, Ada was much more at home in the company of mathematicians than poets. Working closely with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the world's first mechanical computer (the Analytical Engine), Ada was the author of the first instruction set for the computing device. In essence, she was the first computer programmer, creating algorithms 100 years before modern computers would be invented. More than just her technical abilities are revealed in this portrait, which also explores several of her illicit romances with famous men.


Reading list by Jamie Edrich, Reference Dept.

Copyright 2003 (updated 2009) Sachem Public Library. All rights reserved.

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