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An exploration of the art of mathematics through 99 different proofs of the same theorem
This lively and compelling book offers a unique, multifaceted perspective on mathematics by demonstrating 99 different proofs of the same theorem. Each chapter solves an otherwise unremarkable equation in distinct historical, formal, and imaginative styles that range from “Medieval,” “Topological,” and “Doggerel” to “Chromatic,” “Electrostatic,” and “Psychedelic.” Along the way, Philip Ording weaves these variations into an accessible and wide-ranging narrative on the nature and practice of mathematics.
Inspired by the experiments of the Paris-based writing group known as the Oulipo—whose members included Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, and Marcel Duchamp—Ording explores new ways to examine the aesthetic possibilities of mathematical activity. This mathematical take on Queneau’s Exercises in Style—a collection of 99 retellings of the same story—draws unexpected connections to everything from mysticism and technology to architecture and sign language and includes diagrams, notations, and other imagery that are as amusing as they are edifying. With a rare blend of humor and scholarly aplomb, Ording illustrates the inherent creative potential and flexibility of mathematical language despite its reputation for precision and rigor.
Readers of this playful and expansive compendium of mathematical exposition and style will gain not only a bird’s-eye view of the discipline and its major branches but also new insights into its historical, philosophical, and cultural nuances. Every reader, no matter their level of expertise, will discover in these proofs surprising new aspects of the mathematical landscape.