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Strange Curves, Counting Rabbits, & Other Mathematical Explorations
Keith Ball

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004

Paperback | 2006 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691127972
272 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 89 line illus. 7 tables.
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How does mathematics enable us to send pictures from space back to Earth? Where does the bell-shaped curve come from? Why do you need only 23 people in a room for a 50/50 chance of two of them sharing the same birthday? In Strange Curves, Counting Rabbits, and Other Mathematical Explorations, Keith Ball highlights how ideas, mostly from pure math, can answer these questions and many more. Drawing on areas of mathematics from probability theory, number theory, and geometry, he explores a wide range of concepts, some more light-hearted, others central to the development of the field and used daily by mathematicians, physicists, and engineers.

Each of the book's ten chapters begins by outlining key concepts and goes on to discuss, with the minimum of technical detail, the principles that underlie them. Each includes puzzles and problems of varying difficulty. While the chapters are self-contained, they also reveal the links between seemingly unrelated topics. For example, the problem of how to design codes for satellite communication gives rise to the same idea of uncertainty as the problem of screening blood samples for disease.

Accessible to anyone familiar with basic calculus, this book is a treasure trove of ideas that will entertain, amuse, and bemuse students, teachers, and math lovers of all ages.


"Keith Ball demonstrated that though math may not be laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is deeply and gloriously satisfying. . . . Ball's style is pacy and informal, and he does far more than just show off polished results. This is math with the hood up and the engine running."--Ben Longstaff, New Scientist

"A recreational math book with enough heft to give its intended audience a series of mental workouts, ranging from the rough equivalent of a stroll to the corner mailbox to a hard mile run. The writing style is open and engaging."--Choice

"A gem. . . . Each topic is taken up in a setting that immediately generates interest . . . Ball's achievement is to have come up with a selection of topics which are fresh and unusual. . . . It is a pleasure to report that the book is written in limpid, graceful, elegant English prose--nowadays a nearly vanished species."--Stacy G. Langton, MAA Online

"The author's writing style is informal, inviting, and clear. . . . This book gives a lively and carefully written treatment of a number of interesting topics. . . . The range of topics is wide, so even the experienced mathematician may learn something new."--Harold R. Parks, Notices of the American Mathematical Society

"[I]f you salivate at the thought of working those calculations, then run don't walk to the bookshop--for once they've produced a book just for you."--Peter Spitz, Popular Science


"This book belongs on the shelf next to the classic What is Mathematics? as a resource for students who seek a broader view of mathematics and for teachers and professors who want to enrich their classes. A great addition to the books that spread the beauty and substance of mathematics to a wide audience."--Sherman Stein, author of How the Other Half Thinks

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This book has been translated into:

  • Japanese
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Czech

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