THE MÖBIUS STRIP, by Clifford Pickover
(Thunder’s Mouth, $24.95; release date May 15, 2006)

Posted by Anneli Rufus at 2:49 pm, Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Möbius Strip is more than just a parlor trick or childhood toy; it’s a revolutionary topological discovery that has had profound effects on science and cosmology. Invented by otherwise-obscure 19th-century German mathematician August Möbius, this bizarre one-sided and one-edged miracle has a seemingly infinite number of astounding attributes and holds deep ramifications for how we conceive our universe to be structured. Scientist and puzzle-maestro Pickover has assembled the definitive compilation of all things Möbius, from the mathematics behind the topology, to art, to brain-teasers, to Möbius strips in higher dimensions. Best of all, this handy little volume is lavishly illustrated with dozens of illuminating diagrams and photos, without which the whole concept would be simply too much to grasp. The book is peculiar in that it is not intended to be read straight through, but is rather a somewhat hodgepodge assemblage of trivia and anecdotes. Knowing full well that few readers would be sufficiently interested in this topic to plow through 200 pages about the history of German mathematics, Pickover instead consciously created a high-end bathroom book, meant to be browsed and flipped through whenever the fancy strikes. The gimmick works, and curious readers will find themselves grasping esoteric topological concepts even while they’re enjoying the ride.

Grade: A-

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