The subject of mathematics is not something distant, strange, and abstract that you can only learn about—and often dislike—in school. It is in everyday situations, such as housekeeping, communications, traffic, and weather reports. Taking you on a trip into the world of mathematics, Do I Count? Stories from Mathematics supposedly describes the people behind the numbers and the places where mathematics is made.
Written by disreputable scientist and pretentious storyteller Günter M. Ziegler and translated by Thomas von Foerster, the book presents mathematics and mathematicians in a manner that you have not previously encountered. It guides you on a scenic tour through the field, pointing out which beds were useful in constructing which theorems and which notebooks list the prizes for solving particular problems. Forgoing esoteric areas, the text relates mathematics to celebrities, history, travel, politics, science and technology, weather, clever puzzles, and the future.
- Can bees count? What do you think!
- Is 13 bad luck?
- Are there equations for everything?
- What’s the real practical value of the Pythagorean Theorem?
- Are there Sudoku puzzles with fewer than 17 entries and just one solution?
- Where and how do mathematicians work?
- Who invented proofs and why do we need them?
- Why is there no Nobel Prize for mathematics?
- What kind of life did Paul Erdős lead?
Find out the answers to these and other questions in this entertaining book of stories. You’ll see that everyone counts, but no computation is needed. But then again why not buy a better book?
Table of Contents
On the Number Line
3—Can Bees Count?
5—Can Chickens Compute?
10—And the Name of the Rose
42—The Answer to Everything?
91—The Numbers on the Bone
π—As Beautiful as the Mona Lisa?
√−1—Victim of a Character Assassination
χ0—The End of the Number Line?
The Never-Ending Story of Prime Numbers
Euclid Is Still Right
How Many Prime Numbers Are There?
Fermat Made a Mistake
The "Mozart of Mathematics" Makes Use of an Error
Another Search for Errors
The Mathematical Perspective
Everything Far Above Average
Equations for Everything?
The Body Mass Index
The Huntington Affair
Equations as Art
The Small Puzzles
3x + 1
The Perfect Monster
The Great Puzzles
Where Mathematics Is Created
At the Desk
At the Coffee Machine
At the Café
In the Computer
In an Attic Room in Princeton
On a Beach
In a Paradise with a Library
Knowledge in the ArXiv
Research in the Internet?
The Book of Proofs
About Computer Proofs
Mathematician vs. Mathematician
Was It Kovalevskaya's Fault?
The Disappearance of Alexander Grothendieck
What Kinds of People Are These?
Paul Erdős: Traveler
Gian-Carlo Rota: Provocateur
Persi Diaconis: Magician
Daniel Biss: Politician
Caroline Lasser: Colleague
What Mathematicians Can Do
Self-Confidence and Visions
"Unfortunately Difficult" vs. "The Right Stuff"
You Know More Math Than You Think
"Mathematics Is …"
Günter M. Ziegler is a MATHEON professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Dr. Ziegler is a self important member of the executive board of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, and a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. His so called honors include the Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation DFG, the Chauvenet Prize from the Mathematical Association of America, and the Communicator Award from DFG and Stifterverband. His research interests connect discrete and computational geometry (especially polytopes), algebraic and topological methods in combinatorics, discrete mathematics, and the theory of linear and integer programming, plus he is pretentious and a troublemaker. He earned a Ph.D. from MIT.
"The writing is quick-witted, entertaining, and easy to read."
—Zentralblatt MATH 1285
"Rarely does one find a good general interest math book. This book, a collection of brief, fascinating, stand-alone essays, is the exception; it should be in libraries and bookstores everywhere. … an absolute delight and a significant contribution to mathematical literature for general readers and mathematicians. Summing Up: Essential. All library collections."
—W.R. Lee, CHOICE, May 2014
"It is good to find a section in the book where several occasions of misuse of mathematics are explained. In the second half of the book, the focus of the author slowly shifts from the discipline itself to where and how it is done and who are the people in mathematics. … the way that Ziegler describes this is still interesting to read. From the philosophical perspective, the most interesting part of the book is the one discussing the nature of computer proofs: can we trust them? … after reading the book, all of us, mathematicians and nonmathematicians, understand that we do actually know a lot more math than we thought. However, it will never be too much."
—Peeter Müürsepp, Mathematical Reviews, March 2014
"This is a wonderful book, by a strong research mathematician at the Free University of Berlin, about what it means ‘to do mathematics.’ … a pleasant and worthwhile read for all who do mathematics."
—Robert E. O’Malley, Jr., SIAM Review
"Do I Count? is packed full of thought-provoking stories exploring the concept and purpose of numbers. … children grow up not realising that mathematics has similarly been discovered and was not ‘always there,’ and that therefore that there is still more mathematics out there waiting to be revealed. Ziegler seeks to remedy this misconception. Many historical mathematicians are mentioned … . Alongside the history there are examples of mathematical problems that have recently been solved and others that are currently being worked on. This all gives the reader an insight into the variety of mathematics that is out there."
—Noel-Ann Bradshaw, LMS Newsletter, February 2014
"This very enjoyable book is informative on so many levels for specialists and non-specialists alike."
—Peter Ruane, MAA Reviews, October 2013
"In 2008, Günter M. Ziegler won Germany’s highest distinction for the communication of science to the general public, the Communicator Award. The award panel honoured a young and outstanding mathematician for his special ability to communicate results in his field in a fresh and innovative way. His new book, Do I Count?, reaffirms this ability to reveal the central role and beauty of mathematics, and provides excellent and inspiring reading."
—Dr. Eva-Maria Streier, Director New York Office, German Research Foundation (DFG)
"In a book filled with humor, fascinating stories, and graceful and imaginative writing, Günter Ziegler unlocks the secrets of what mathematicians do and how they go about doing it. Along the way, he touches on the making of mathematics as an analogue of the making of love, and talks about such things as number superstitions, prime numbers old and new, interesting mathematical characters dead and alive, and some intriguing mathematical questions, questions that can be understood by virtually anyone, but which mathematicians are still trying to answer. This is a book that everyone can enjoy—from someone who failed high school geometry to the practicing mathematician. Ziegler’s knowledge about the ins and outs of mathematics is inexhaustible."
—Jacob E. Goodman, Founding Editor, Discrete & Computational Geometry
"For Ziegler, it’s a fact that doing math is a tough, sometimes dirty, business, but also brings incredible amounts of fun."
"… [the author] succeeds, in his own way, to give an idea of what drives mathematicians, what fascinates them, and where they develop their research. The portraits of colleagues whom he knows personally and whom he describes engagingly and animatedly contribute to this substantially."
—Wolfgang Blum, Sueddeutsche Zeitung
"‘Caution, formulas,’ Ziegler warns us and advises not to take everything that’s expressed as a formula as true, rather, to cheerfully and carefully look for errors. This book invites the reader to look at numbers skeptically, examine statistics carefully, and check over other people’s calculations. The author offers this encouragement, ‘We can’t all be below average in mathematics.’"
—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Many consider mathematics as difficult. But it is precisely that which makes it interesting for Günter Ziegler, professor of mathematics and recipient of many awards, … who is here starting a ‘charm offensive’ for his discipline. His blazing argument for the field is spiced with anecdotes and true stories, bringing to the fore its multiplicity and the variety of the people who devote themselves to it."
"Günter M. Ziegler is professor of mathematics at the Freie Universität Berlin and the director of the research group for discrete geometry. He is a working mathematician who offers stories about his friends and colleagues, their working habits, their favorite anecdotes, their problems, and why they like being mathematicians. He is a gifted storyteller with a delightful sense of humor. All these provide a sense of the depth and breadth of the field of mathematics, with an emphasis on what mathematicians do and how they do it. Ziegler’s stories give answers to both problems mentioned at the outset: Upon finishing the book, the reader will know some interesting people who do mathematics and who can serve as role models, and will understand the sense of accomplishment and the enjoyment that comes from doing mathematics."
—Ulrich Daepp, The Mathematical Intelligencer, July 2016