The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics


Mathematics, as presented by Clifford Pickover, is a palace filled with awe-inspiring curiosities. His Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics is a 500-page, full-color tour of mathematical highlights from 150 Million B.C. to 2007.

Each two-page spread has a fascinating story about a mathematical principle, discovery, puzzle, artifact, or person. It would make a great gift for people who dislike math because they "don't have a head for numbers."

Pickover does a excellent job of clearly explaining each topic, whether it's Aristotle's Wheel Paradox, the Sieve of Eratosthenes, the death of Hypatia (a mathematician "torn to shreds by a Christian mob" in 415 A.D., "partly because she did not adhere to strict Christian principles"), the Fibonacci series, the Goldbach Conjecture, Benford's Law, the Prisoner's Dilemma, Newcomb's Paradox, Tokarsky's Unilluminable Room, or any of other 250 topics in the book.

I have to get rid of most of the books that come in my door (I get several a day sent to me). This is one I plan to keep.

The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics


  1. This looks awesome. Not available yet in the UK, so I’ve pre-ordered.

    Maybe you can help me with something that I’ve wondered for a while: If I follow an affiliate link to then navigate to and buy the book, do you still get the affiliate commission?

    It seems like Amazon should be able to track me from .com to the same book at by comparing cookies, referral headers or some other internet wizardy. Or is the jump between two different regions and TLDs too much for them to handle?

    I ask because there are a couple of US-based sites (BB included) that I’d like to support by using their affiliate links, but I have no idea whether they actually get credit for my purchases.

  2. Oh, be still my beating heart. I will have to give that to myself for Christmas and also to many other lovers of math pr0n.

  3. mathematical principal

    Christian principles

    One of these is wrong.

    I look forward to seeing this book. Pickover’s Reality Carnival blog is a great read too- simultaneously scientifically literate and completely deranged.

  4. You mean both of them are wrong (but for different reasons), Beanolini. :D

    I had a mathematical principal in HS, he was a real jerk with attendance, said he needed to “stick to the numbers….”

  5. And don’t leave out those Christian principals, banning everything, like evolution and Lyell, that doesn’t meet with their Christian principles.

    /dumb puns

  6. I second the UK guy who muses about referrals across country specific links. Give me links to the English book section on the German Amazon and I will happily give back that way.

  7. Yay for Pickover! He’s one of the few people I wholeheartedly consider “inspiring” – as most of his writing is.

  8. I went straight to Amazon to try and buy this book but sadly it seems to be USA only. The P&P coupled with tax would sadly cost more than the actual book so here’s hoping for a worldwide release.

  9. This looks great!

    Bugs, I just checked the Amazon Affiliate page, and it looks like you have to sign up to each Amazon TLD (.com/ individually. I’ll try find out if this is implemented yet.

  10. Unfotunately, there is absolutely zero evidence that Hypatia’s death had anything to do with her lack of Christianity. Instead, she was caught in a power struggle between two different Christian leaders. The myth seems to have originated in the Enlightenment desire to invent the conflict thesis.

    Here’s an extensive post on the reality of what happened to Hypatia (it’s by an atheist, for those who like to go after the source instead of the material):

    With the opening of Agora, considering what Hollywood generally does with history, the myth will probably be even harder to eradicate.

  11. The myth seems to have originated in the Enlightenment desire to invent the conflict thesis.

    Careful, Roach. You don’t want people to think you don’t completely support the notion that science and religion are polar opposites, utterly incompatible, neurologically mutually exclusive, and completely and eternally in open warfare in every facet of human existence.

  12. I’ve liked what Cliff has done in the past, and he’s a nice guy besides. Thanks for letting me know he has another one out.

    (Hey, are we still allowed to post non-metadiscussion?)

  13. Right, Semiotix. Sorry.

    The book itself sounds cool. I’m a moderate math nerd. I just thought it was weird that that was the only one Mark picked to explain, not any of the actual math ones.

  14. This is the sort of book I want to buy for any kids I may have. It seems like a great entry point into mathematical curiosity.

  15. Buy it for kids you don’t have too. It is beautiful, in several ways. Each one page topic is worth thinking about, and Pickover doesn’t shy away from an explanatory equation.

    It is a great collection of clean math art and graphics too. (He used an illustration of mine, for the Thue-Morse sequence. There’s not any book I’d rather be represented in.)

  16. awesome. math nerd here. been looking for a cool book for kids. this would be great, maybe in conjunction with a puzzle book.

    plus, i want it. it would be cool if it was a big coffee table book.

  17. Does anyone know if his chapter on the Pythagorean theorem includes the Chinese graphical proof that may have predated or been concurrent with Pythagoras?

  18. Anonymous @ 10 – the book is on Amazon UK already, though not yet available.

    It is also cheaper here than the US price – £9.99 (£10 off) vs $17.97 – plus it qualifies for Free Delivery (the barrier in the UK is a low £5 compared with the US $25). Of course, you might not be in the UK either. Keep watching the skies!

  19. Made for a great graduation present for my daughter’s math nerd boyfriend. Unbelievable book – awesome. Gave it to him about two weeks ago for and was completely stoked. I turned him on to Cliff’s websites and now he’s a fan. I ordered it back in the spring so I got the pre-order deal from Amazon. The book is massive so the price I thought was way too low, even for pre-order pricing.
    Cliff’s something else, isn’t he?

  20. Got it for Christmas and I am somewhat disappointed. There are more technical terms and symbols than I expected – I would not recommend it as a way to open the mystery and beauty of math to a person who ‘doesn’t have a head for numbers.’ Worst of all, the many of the images are of terrible quality, and about half the book is pictures.

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