“Martin Gardner is solely responsible for the development of the field of “recreational mathematics,” whether he is talking about hexaflexagons, number theory, Klein bottles, or the meaning of “nothing.” The most well-known essays from Gardner’s illustrious “Mathematical Games” column, which appeared in Scientific American for twenty-five years, are collected in The Colossal Book of Mathematics. Inspiring readers to look beyond numbers and formulae and explore the application of mathematical principles to the mysterious world around them, Gardner’s collection of captivating puzzles and mind-bending paradoxes opens mathematics accessible to the general public. This collection of essays is a substantial and conclusive memorial to Gardner’s contributions to mathematics, science, and culture. The topics covered in the essays range from basic algebra to the twisting surfaces of Mobius strips, from an endless game of Bulgarian solitaire to the impossibility of time travel.
The Colossal Book of Math tackles a wide range of topics in its twelve sections, each strikingly brought to life by Gardner’s sharp insight. Gardner expertly leads us through complex and wondrous worlds by starting with topics that appear to be simple: using basic algebra, we consider the fascinating, frequently hilarious, linguistic and numerical possibilities of palindromes; using simple geometry, he dissects the principles of symmetry that the renowned mathematical artist M. C. Escher uses to create his unique, dizzying universe. Few contemporary philosophers combine a deep aesthetic, and imaginative impulse with a strict scientific skepticism like Gardner does. For instance, in his breathtaking investigation of “The Church of the Fourth Dimension,” he masterfully imagines the geographical possibilities of God’s presence in the world as a fourth dimension, at once “everywhere and nowhere,” bridging the gap between the worlds of science and religion.
Gardner enables the reader to further engage difficult subjects like probability and game theory, which have bedeviled shrewd gamblers and illustrious mathematicians for generations, with unlimited wisdom and his signature humor. Gardner consistently demonstrates his ferocious intelligence and sweet humor, whether disproving Pascal’s wager with elementary probability, creating musical patterns with fractals, or unraveling a “knotted doughnut” using basic topology. Hexaflexagons, “Nothing,” and “Everything,” as well as the reassuringly familiar “Generalized Ticktacktoe” and “Sprouts and Brussel Sprouts” are both confronted in his writings. He expertly navigates these mind-bogglingly obscure themes, and with addenda and recommended reading lists, he enriches these great essays with a fresh perspective.
Gardner is admired by mathematicians, physicists, writers, and readers alike for his immense knowledge and insatiable curiosity, which shine through on every page. The Colossal Book of Mathematics is the largest and most thorough math book ever put together by Gardner and remains a vital resource for both amateur and experienced mathematicians. It is the product of Gardner’s lifetime passion for the wonders of mathematics.”