The Zen of Magic Squares, Circles, and Stars: An Exhibition of Surprising Structures across Dimensions

Princeton University Press
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Humanity's love affair with mathematics and mysticism reached a critical juncture, legend has it, on the back of a turtle in ancient China. As Clifford Pickover briefly recounts in this enthralling book, the most comprehensive in decades on magic squares, Emperor Yu was supposedly strolling along the Yellow River one day around 2200 B.C. when he spotted the creature: its shell had a series of dots within squares. To Yu's amazement, each row of squares contained fifteen dots, as did the columns and diagonals. When he added any two cells opposite along a line through the center square, like 2 and 8, he always arrived at 10. The turtle, unwitting inspirer of the ''Yu'' square, went on to a life of courtly comfort and fame.

Pickover explains why Chinese emperors, Babylonian astrologer-priests, prehistoric cave people in France, and ancient Mayans of the Yucatan were convinced that magic squares--arrays filled with numbers or letters in certain arrangements--held the secret of the universe. Since the dawn of civilization, he writes, humans have invoked such patterns to ward off evil and bring good fortune. Yet who would have guessed that in the twenty-first century, mathematicians would be studying magic squares so immense and in so many dimensions that the objects defy ordinary human contemplation and visualization?


Readers are treated to a colorful history of magic squares and similar structures, their construction, and classification along with a remarkable variety of newly discovered objects ranging from ornate inlaid magic cubes to hypercubes. Illustrated examples occur throughout, with some patterns from the author's own experiments. The tesseracts, circles, spheres, and stars that he presents perfectly convey the age-old devotion of the math-minded to this Zenlike quest. Number lovers, puzzle aficionados, and math enthusiasts will treasure this rich and lively encyclopedia of one of the few areas of mathematics where the contributions of even nonspecialists count.

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About the author

Clifford Pickover is the author of over twenty books on a broad range of topics in science and art, a columnist for Odyssey, and an inventor. His books include Surfing Through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons, Wonders of Numbers: Adventures in Mathematics, Mind, and Meaning, and The Loom of God: Mathematical Tapestries at the Edge of Time.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 28, 2011
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Pages
432
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ISBN
9781400841516
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / History & Philosophy
Mathematics / Recreations & Games
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Do a little armchair time-travel, rub elbows with a four-dimensional intelligent life form, or stretch your mind to the furthest corner of an uncharted universe. With this astonishing guidebook, Surfing Through Hyperspace, you need not be a mathematician or an astrophysicist to explore the all-but-unfathomable concepts of hyperspace and higher-dimensional geometry. No subject in mathematics has intrigued both children and adults as much as the idea of a fourth dimension. Philosophers and parapsychologists have meditated on this mysterious space that no one can point to but may be all around us. Yet this extra dimension has a very real, practical value to mathematicians and physicists who use it every day in their calculations. In the tradition of Flatland, and with an infectious enthusiasm, Clifford Pickover tackles the problems inherent in our 3-D brains trying to visualize a 4-D world, muses on the religious implications of the existence of higher-dimensional consciousness, and urges all curious readers to venture into "the unexplored territory lying beyond the prison of the obvious." Pickover alternates sections that explain the science of hyperspace with sections that dramatize mind-expanding concepts through a fictional dialogue between two futuristic FBI agents who dabble in the fourth dimension as a matter of national security. This highly accessible and entertaining approach turns an intimidating subject into a scientific game open to all dreamers. Surfing Through Hyperspace concludes with a number of puzzles, computer experiments and formulas for further exploration, inviting readers to extend their minds across this inexhaustibly intriguing scientific terrain.
Do a little armchair time-travel, rub elbows with a four-dimensional intelligent life form, or stretch your mind to the furthest corner of an uncharted universe. With this astonishing guidebook, Surfing Through Hyperspace, you need not be a mathematician or an astrophysicist to explore the all-but-unfathomable concepts of hyperspace and higher-dimensional geometry. No subject in mathematics has intrigued both children and adults as much as the idea of a fourth dimension. Philosophers and parapsychologists have meditated on this mysterious space that no one can point to but may be all around us. Yet this extra dimension has a very real, practical value to mathematicians and physicists who use it every day in their calculations. In the tradition of Flatland, and with an infectious enthusiasm, Clifford Pickover tackles the problems inherent in our 3-D brains trying to visualize a 4-D world, muses on the religious implications of the existence of higher-dimensional consciousness, and urges all curious readers to venture into "the unexplored territory lying beyond the prison of the obvious." Pickover alternates sections that explain the science of hyperspace with sections that dramatize mind-expanding concepts through a fictional dialogue between two futuristic FBI agents who dabble in the fourth dimension as a matter of national security. This highly accessible and entertaining approach turns an intimidating subject into a scientific game open to all dreamers. Surfing Through Hyperspace concludes with a number of puzzles, computer experiments and formulas for further exploration, inviting readers to extend their minds across this inexhaustibly intriguing scientific terrain.
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