The Grapes of Math

The Grapes of Math

How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life

Book - 2014
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The bestselling author of  Alex's Adventures in Numberland returns with a dazzling new book that turns even the most complex math into a brilliantly entertaining narrative.
From triangles, rotations and power laws, to fractals, cones and curves, bestselling author Alex Bellos takes you on a journey of mathematical discovery with his signature wit, engaging stories and limitless enthusiasm. As he narrates a series of eye-opening encounters with lively personalities all over the world, Alex demonstrates how numbers have come to be our friends, are fascinating and extremely accessible, and how they have changed our world.

He turns even the dreaded calculus into an easy-to-grasp mathematical exposition, and sifts through over 30,000 survey submissions to reveal the world's favourite number. In Germany, he meets the engineer who designed the first roller-coaster loop, whilst in India he joins the world's highly numerate community at the International Congress of Mathematicians. He explores the wonders behind the Game of Life program, and explains mathematical logic, growth and negative numbers. Stateside, he hangs out with a private detective in Oregon and meets the mathematician who looks for universes from his garage in Illinois.

Read this captivating book, and you won't realise that you're learning about complex concepts. Alex will get you hooked on maths as he delves deep into humankind's turbulent relationship with numbers, and proves just how much fun we can have with them.
Publisher: Toronto :, Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited,, 2014, ©2014.
ISBN: 9780385671804
Branch Call Number: 513 BEL
Characteristics: xiii, 337 pages : illustrations


From the critics

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Dec 15, 2017

Fun for anybody who plays mental games with numbers. The math is easy to follow, at least until you get to the very end of the book. Even there, the word descriptions are quite good.

Jan 13, 2015

Thanks to the library readers for discovering this book for me. It is a page turner, entertaining and informative ... only disappointed when it ended. However, its large collection of references are great reads on their own. Took quite a bit of notes and found more interesting math/human stories as "The Accidental Ecoterrorist" from LA Times Magazine:

Nov 24, 2014

This is an outstanding book, if you aren't math-conversant, you will learn a great deal; if you are math-conversant, the author will present information in a most brilliantly lucid fashion to the reader's delight! Clearly, this author has a very superior grasp of mathematics. Highly recommended.

Oct 20, 2014

As we all well know, we have a Love hate relationship with Math. We either love Math or Love to hate it. Well, here is a book that you will love regardless of which group you fall under!

I enjoyed every chapter and was just astounded by some of the things I read. More importantly, I found Alex Bellos explaining really tough concepts in a fashion that one could understand even with a very basic knowledge of Math. If you've always been somewhat scared of Math but wanted to learn more this book is the perfect answer; and if you're a Math lover/Geek you will love this book too.

ksoles Aug 02, 2014

Warning: the perfection of a circle can cause chills of excitement. Exponents have the power (pun intended) to blow your mind. Understanding calculus beats laughing at a great joke. Not convinced? Then ignore its groan-inducing title and pick up "The Grapes of Math," a fascinating, first-rate survey of the world of mathematics.

British mathematician and philosopher Alex Bellos argues not only that doing math results in aesthetic delight but also that math explains the workings of our entire world. He opens with chapters that explain our deep-seated feelings about numbers: why everyone chooses seven as a favourite, why one represents the masculine "yang" and two the feminine "yin." He then intriguingly discusses Benford's law: the abundance of numbers beginning with one or two and the paucity of higher initial digits in newspaper stories, populations, stock prices etc.

Moving on to geometry, algebra, calculus, the laws of logic and the nature of proofs, Bellos always shows how an esoteric discovery has practical applications. For example, the S segment of a curve, called the clothoid, serves as the transition path used by trains when moving from a straight to a circular path in order to avoid jolting passengers. Certainly, the mathematical principles can grow too complex for the non-expert; in these cases, Bellos advises skipping to the beginning of the next chapter, where he always starts with a clean slate and elementary concepts. In this way, the author guides readers through such marvels as pi and the exponential constant e, noting how often mathematicians deplored new concepts like imaginary numbers and infinity.

Aside from providing a great read for the intellectually curious, the book provides charming sketches of notables like the genius Leonhard Euler, the dysfunctional Bernoullis and the bitter rivals Leibniz and Newton who feuded over who invented calculus. Overall a fantastic book to stretch the brain and have fun doing so.


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Jan 13, 2015

OMG!!! LOL!!! It turns out that if we calculate 1/n! for every number starting from 0, then add up all the terms, the answer is e.
Euler’s identity is the “To be or not to be” of mathematics, the most famous line in the oeuvre and a piece of cultural heritage that resonates beyond its field: e^iπ + 1 = 0
...The equation is mind-blowing. It cleanly unites the five most important numbers in math: 1, the first counting number; 0, the abstraction of nothing; π, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter; e, the exponential constant; and i, the square root of minus one.

Jan 13, 2015

Jokes are stories with a setup and a punch line. You follow them carefully until the payoff, which makes you smile. A piece of math is also a story with a setup and a punch line. It’s a different type of story, of course, in which the protagonists are numbers, shapes, symbols and patterns. We’d usually call a mathematical story a “proof,” and the punch line a “theorem.”
It is really rule of 69:
So, the number of compounding periods tit takes for a quantity to double is 69 divided by the percentage growth rate R. Because 72 is an easier number to divide than 69, the number most commonly used in the rule is 72, even though 69 would be more accurate.

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