by syaffolee

Of Starships and Strange Geometry

Star Trek. All the students working in lab on Friday took off early in the afternoon to catch a matinee showing of the latest Star Trek film. First off, I am easily impressed by nifty camera angles and special effects in a movie theater–so even if the actors were terrible, I would have found it entertaining. But the actors weren’t terrible–in fact, I quite liked Zachary Quinto’s take on Spock. I would suggest seeing the movie with no expectation in order to enjoy it as what it essentially is–space opera. Now, if only that pesky MacGuffin (red matter?!) will stop bothering me.

Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life by Robin Wilson. Most biographies follow a predictable structure–birth, life, death. If you pick one up, you know pretty much what you’ll get. Wilson, however, mixes it up as he examines the life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Interspersed with the biographical narrative are mathematical and logic puzzles created by Dodgson himself. Some of these puzzles were written for periodicals or to children he regularly corresponded with (although the author is quick to assure the reader that Dodgson’s association was entirely innocent and far from today’s assumptions of moral depravity). He used geometrical problems as satire to lampoon his university’s administration. However, Dodgson’s interest in mathematical puzzles extended beyond the amusing and frivolous–in fact, he was ahead of his time in devising fair strategies for seeding sports brackets and election voting. And with his work on symbolic logic, he created an alternative to Venn diagrams. This book is filled with interesting problems that will give the analytical part of your brain a workout. (But don’t worry if you can’t solve them or are too lazy to–there are answers at the back.) It’s also quite fun–I wish my high school math teachers had this as assigned reading as it would have made class a lot less dull.

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