Impossible?: Surprising Solutions to Counterintuitive Conundrums

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Princeton University Press, 2008 M04 21 - 235 pages

In Nonplussed!, popular-math writer Julian Havil delighted readers with a mind-boggling array of implausible yet true mathematical paradoxes. Now Havil is back with Impossible?, another marvelous medley of the utterly confusing, profound, and unbelievable--and all of it mathematically irrefutable.


Whenever Forty-second Street in New York is temporarily closed, traffic doesn't gridlock but flows more smoothly--why is that? Or consider that cities that build new roads can experience dramatic increases in traffic congestion--how is this possible? What does the game show Let's Make A Deal reveal about the unexpected hazards of decision-making? What can the game of cricket teach us about the surprising behavior of the law of averages? These are some of the counterintuitive mathematical occurrences that readers encounter in Impossible?
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Havil ventures further than ever into territory where intuition can lead one astray. He gathers entertaining problems from probability and statistics along with an eclectic variety of conundrums and puzzlers from other areas of mathematics, including classics of abstract math like the Banach-Tarski paradox. These problems range in difficulty from easy to highly challenging, yet they can be tackled by anyone with a background in calculus. And the fascinating history and personalities associated with many of the problems are included with their mathematical proofs. Impossible? will delight anyone who wants to have their reason thoroughly confounded in the most astonishing and unpredictable ways.

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User Review  - sthitha_pragjna - LibraryThing

Havil is a delightful mathematician (author of "Gamma") who revels in the wonders of 18th century mathematics, and shares these with his readers in lively prose, and full algebraic derivations. He has ... Read full review

Contents

Chapter
10
Chapter
11
Chapter 4
31
Chapter 6
50
Chapter 7
68
Chapter 8
82
WildCard Poker
103
Chapter 12
131
Chapter 13
146
Chapter 14
165
Chapter 16
190
Chapter 18
210
Index
233
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About the author (2008)

Julian Havil is a retired former master at Winchester College, England, where he taught mathematics for thirty-three years. In addition to Nonplussed!, he is the author of Gamma: Exploring Euler's Constant (both Princeton).

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