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The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty by KC Cole

1998; 214 pp. $22. Harcourt, Brace & Company.

For a book devoted to math, Universe contains nary a number.

If that's a sop to the math-phobic, I protest, but if she can convince people that it's safe?and pleasurable?to come out and play in the world of math, she'll serve math and society well.

Cole debugs intuition (a phrase from mathematician Amos Tversky). She catalogs the booby traps that our brains and intuition get us into. She helps us out with counterintuition, showing why, mathematically, the worst voting system is most-votes-rule; how be-nice-and-forgiving guys don't finish last, but win more often; or how ignoring probability feels good but leads to bad decisions. Not surprisingly, she prescribes a mathematics antidote for toxic thinking. Her writing is persuasive and poetic; in it, truth and beauty embrace.


ISBN: 0156006561

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