Sep 08, 2020dixithanoop rated this title 2 out of 5 stars
'The book has some serious problems' would be a compliment to this book! Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities lives up to its expectations, if not exceeds it by a margin. This is basically a popular Math book by popular science author Professor Ian Stewart. But the gamut of topics (or "curiosities" touched upon in this book is impressive. Many curiosities come across as silly, a few are captivating, a bunch of them are explorative, but I'm afraid none was original to my dismay, although I probably should have guessed it before I picked up the book.
If you're already an expert at knowing interesting and varied topics in Math and logic, this book might just mildly interest you. Yet, there are some topics that are explained so well they give a new perspective to the concept. The one that impressed me the most is Euler's Equation (widely regarded as the most beautiful equation in all of Math) - e ^ (i*pi) = -1. I had come across that equation thousands of times, but the author's way of "realizing" the equation using a circle and tangents at right angles was truly marvelous. Many more such explanations come to my mind - Langton's Ant, the elaborate explanation of Poincare Conjecture, the puzzle of division into 17 entities, the nature and idea of "pi", realistic meaning of squaring a circle, Fermat's Last Equation etc.
I must admit that there are some puzzles in the book that are well known, like the river crossing puzzle, coin swaps, pour glasses, weighing machines etc. But the point is if you're compiling a list of mathematical curiosities of various kinds for a heterogeneous audience, I guess those ought to get a place, and so the author has done a good job with that. There were some news as well, like the patented primes, simple yet brilliant "Tap-an-Animal" game etc that gave me new ideas to create a few more puzzles.
Overall, while I did enjoy reading the book, a large portion of it was "re-visiting" what I had already enjoyed in my teens. The book is not equation-heavy and caters mostly to general audience, so if you're like me that loves equations and proofs, the book won't impress you dearly but you'd still have a fun ride.