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The Secret Life of Numbers: 50 Easy Pieces on How Mathematicians Work and Think


The Secret Life of Numbers

50 Easy Pieces on How Mathematicians Work and Think (2006)

Most of us picture mathematicians laboring before a chalkboard, scribbling numbers and obscure symbols as they mutter unintelligibly. This lighthearted (but realistic) sneak-peak into the everyday world of mathematicians turns that stereotype on its head.Most people have little idea what mathematicians do or how they think. It’s often difficult to see how their seemingly arcane and esoteric work applies to our own everyday lives. But mathematics also holds a special allure for many people. We are drawn to its inherent beauty and fascinated by its complexity—but often intimidated by its presumed difficulty. The Secret Life of Numbers opens our eyes to the joys of mathematics, introducing us to the charming, often whimsical side, of the discipline. Divided into several parts, the book looks at interesting and largely unknown historical tidbits, introduces the largerthan- life practitioners of mathematics through the ages, profiles some of the most significant unsolved conjectures, and describes problems and puzzles that have already been solved. Rounding out the table of contents is a host of mathematical miscellany—all of which add up to 50 fun, sometimes cheeky, shorttakes on the field. Chock full of stories, anecdotes, and entertaining vignettes, The Secret Life of Numbers shows us how mathematics really does affect almost every aspect of life—from the law to geography, elections to botany—and we come to appreciate the delight and gratification that mathematics holds for all of us.

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Author Bio

George G. Szpiro is a mathematician turned journalist. He earned an M.A. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, an M.B.A. from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in mathematical economics from Hebrew University. He taught at the Wharton School, Hebrew University, and the University of Zürich; for the past 20 years, he has been the Israel correspondent for Neue Zürcher Zeitung. His first book, Kepler’s Conjecture, was widely praised.

Suggested Citation

George G. Szpiro. 2006. The Secret Life of Numbers: 50 Easy Pieces on How Mathematicians Work and Think. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

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Publication Info

224 pages |  6 x 9 |  DOI:

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