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Magical Mathematics:
The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks
Persi Diaconis & Ron Graham
With a foreword by Martin Gardner

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format] | Chapter 5 [PDF only]


"Magical Mathematics gives readers a peek behind the velvet curtain that hides the magician's secrets. . . . The book covers some nifty card tricks, juggling, codes and a slew of mind-bending puzzles. The book doesn't just tell you how to fool and impress your friends with parlour tricks, it explains why these tricks work, so that you can go on to devise your own--in fact, the authors challenge you to do just that. The writing is lively and the tricks are well set-up, providing newbie magicians with both points of view: what the audience sees and what the magician knows."--Montreal Gazette

"Magical Mathematics is an absolutely remarkable book. I don't say this lightly. Publishers send me plenty of books to review. Some I like more than others. Magical Mathematics is a fantastic book for someone who wants to explore the non-trivial math behind some impressive magic tricks. While I enjoy purely recreational math puzzles that have no practical application I also love it when I discover challenges that are interesting and relevant. Magical Mathematics is chock full of fun (and deep) challenges that students (and adults) can sink their teeth into."--Wild About Math blog

"Over 12 chapters, the reader is taken on a unique and wonderful tour that fuses magical tricks with underlying mathematical explanations and personal stories, written by world-renowned experts in both fields. With its friendly, disarming style, the book is pitched perfectly at a level that will surprise both the hardened mathematical researcher and the interested general reader, without putting either of them off. . . . [T]his book is a must-buy."--C.J. Howls, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The first chapter of this book begins by teaching a simple four-card trick and ends by presenting--complete with step-by-step color illustrations--a more complicated card trick that will truly amaze any audience. Both tricks are based on mathematical principles, and the book goes on to explain these and many other principles that can be the basis for a variety of clever magic tricks."--Games magazine

"Learn the secrets behind card tricks, including step-by-step instructions for performing them, along with the mathematical ideas the tricks illustrate."--Science News

"As magic books go, Magical Mathematics is erudite, thought provoking, inspiring. . . . It is the product of multiple decades of work and research, and for a small subset of magic enthusiasts it could rank as the best book they buy this decade."--James Alan, Magicol

"There is so much to digest in this book that it is impossible to describe even a fraction of it in just a few paragraphs. Let it suffice to say that if you are at all interested in card magic principles, how they work, why they work, and the history behind them, to ignore this book would be a serious mistake."--Peter Duffie, Magic magazine

"From arcane theories to practical tips for working magicians, the authors go behind the curtain and reveal how the pros do it."--San Jose Mercury News

"The connection between magic and mathematics has a long and intriguing history, and throughout their book Diaconis and Graham present detailed and fascinating insight into that history. . . . Overall, the book is a wonderful introduction to this esoteric area, but has more than enough depth to entertain and enlighten the knowledgeable. Perhaps most important of all, it shows how deconstructing illusion can provide fascinating insight in the nature of reality."--Richard Wiseman, Nature Physics

"Magical Mathematics strikes a nice balance between descriptions of performable magic tricks and the mathematics that makes them work. Unlike some 'mathemagic' books, in this work, Diaconis and Graham describe magic tricks that are actually used by professionals. . . . [T]he writing is engaging, and learning the tricks that are presented is well worth the effort. . . . This volume should find a place in any mathematics or magic library collection."--Choice

"While turning the last pages, the reader is bound to feel touched and charged up and would definitely be moving in an altered direction, for this is a book that will not just leave an impression, but will also suggest which path to take next."--Shubashree Desikan, Current Science

"Reading Magical Mathematics . . . had . . . [a] powerful effect on me. I was transported to a strange and shadowy world of card tricks and magic that, at the same time, was miraculously a land of mathematics, a land with substance. . . . Barely ten pages into the book I am completely hooked."--John J Watkins, Mathematical Reviews

"The authors have produced an invaluable contribution to the fascinating relationship between magic and mathematics. . . . The authors exhibit a lifelong passion, enthusiasm and deep knowledge for magic and mathematics and this is an ideal combination for producing a great read. . . . I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the mathematics behind some impressive magic."--Fiacre O. Cairbre, Irish Mathematical Society Bulletin

"Mathematical Magic is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject."--Arthur Benjamin, SIAM

"This is a splendid book with lots of wonderful insights. . . . Give this book a try; you certainly will not be disappointed."--Phil Dyke, Leonardo Reviews

"While there are other books out there detailing the relationship between mathematics and magic, this book is perhaps the best written of them all, as it will appeal to magicians, math buffs and general readers alike."--R. S. Beer,


"Finally a book that celebrates the math involved in magic. This is quite simply the most brilliant book ever written on this mind-blowing, highly secretive field."--David Blaine, illusionist

"A remarkably appealing concoction of conjuring, invention, education, science, homage, and memoir--it is like no other book in the long history of magic."--Ricky Jay, author, actor, and one of the world's best sleight-of-hand artists

"A truly stunning exposition by two masters in the field. Diaconis and Graham trace the fascinating relationship between mathematics and magic, which goes back at least eight hundred years. Nothing like this has been published before. Magical Mathematics is a huge contribution both to magic and mathematics."--Colm Mulcahy, author of Card Colm, an online column hosted by the Mathematical Association of America

"Magical Mathematics is a truly magical book, containing ample amounts of mathematics and magic that will amaze and amuse. Diaconis and Graham are both first-rate mathematicians and performers, and offer insights and ideas that could not have been expressed by anyone else. This book is destined to be a classic on the subject."--Arthur Benjamin, coauthor of Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

"This is a wonderful book, unique and engaging. Diaconis and Graham manage to convey the awe and marvels of mathematics, and of magic tricks, especially those that depend fundamentally on mathematical ideas. They range over many delicious topics, giving us an enchanting personal view of the history and practice of magic, of mathematics, and of the fascinating connection between the two cultures. Magical Mathematics will have an utterly devoted readership."--Barry Mazur, author of Imagining Numbers: (particularly the square root of minus fifteen)

"Magical Mathematics is a wonder to behold. It instantly seduces the reader with goodies new and old, and is just as perfect for long-term study. There are also surprises for those well familiar with the magical realm."--Robert E. Neale, magician

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File created: 4/18/2014

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