How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

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9780465051717: How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics


What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? In How to Bake Pi, math professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics, powered, unexpectedly, by insights from the kitchen: we learn, for example, how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. Of course, it's not all about cooking; we'll also run the New York and Chicago marathons, take a closer look at St. Paul's Cathedral, pay visits to Cinderella and Lewis Carroll, and even get to the bottom of why we think of a tomato as a vegetable. At the heart of it all is Cheng's work on category theory, a cutting-edge mathematics of mathematics,” that is about figuring out how math works. This is not the math of our high school classes: seen through category theory, mathematics becomes less about numbers and formulas and more about how we know, believe, and understand anything, including whether our brother took too much cake.

Many of us think that math is hard, but, as Cheng makes clear, math is actually designed to make difficult things easier. Combined with her infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a true zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey through a vast territory no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi offers a whole new way to think about a field all of us think we know; it will both dazzle the constant reader of popular mathematics and amuse and enlighten even the most hardened math-phobe.

So, what is math? Let's look for the answer in the kitchen.

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About the Author:

Eugenia Cheng is tenured in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She has previously been on the mathematics faculty at the University of Chicago and is the Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Review:

PRAISE FOR HOW TO BAKE PI:

Cheng demystifies math by using recipes to explain mathematical concepts. Her two passions have a good deal in common: Baking and math are centered on similar principles, Cheng notes here, and her clever guide offers tangible examples of abstract ideas.”
New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row

Dr. Cheng...has a knack for brushing aside conventions and edicts, like so many pie crumbs from a cutting board. She is a theoretical mathematician who works in a rarefied field called category theory, which is so abstract that even some pure mathematicians think it goes too far,' Dr. Cheng said. At the same time, Dr. Cheng is winning fame as a math popularizer, convinced that the pleasures of math can be conveyed to the legions of numbers-averse humanities majors still recovering from high school algebra. She has been featured on shows like Late Night With Stephen Colbert and her online math tutorials have been viewed more than a million times.”
Natalie Angier, New York Times

Cheng is exceptional at translating the abstract concepts of mathematics into ordinary language, a strength aided by a writing style that showcases the workings of her curious, sometimes whimsical mind. This combination allows her to demystify how mathematicians think and work, and makes her love for mathematics contagious.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

An original book using recipes to explain sophisticated math concepts to students and even the math-phobic.... [Cheng] is a gifted teacher.... A sharp, witty book to press on students and even the teachers of math teachers.”
Kirkus Reviews

[A] well-written, easy-to-read book.”
Library Journal

[T]his book was fun and covered some cool maths, using some nice analogies, and would serve as a good intro for someone getting into category theory.”
The Aperiodical (UK)

Eugenia Cheng offers an entertaining introduction to the beauty of mathematics by drawing on insights from the kitchen. She explains why baking a flourless cake is like geometry and offers puzzles to whet the appetites of maths fans.”
Times Educational Supplement (UK)

Cheng never quite overeggs her metaphor of the mathematician as chef...and her tone is clear, clever and friendly. Even at her most whimsical she is rigorous and insightful. Potentially confusing ideas are expressed with a matter-of-fact simplicity.... How to Bake Pi is a welcome addition to the popular-math shelf, unusual not only because of its quirky premise but also because Cheng is a woman, a lucid and nimble expositor, and unashamedly proud of her domestic obsessions.... It would be wonderful if this book attracted a new audience to the field. And there's no better ambassador (or dinner-party host, I'd wager) than Eugenia Cheng.”
Alex Bellos, New York Times Book Review

Invoking plenty of examples from cooking and baking, as well as other everyday-life situations such as calculating a taxi fare, searching for love through online dating services and training for a marathon, [Cheng] explains abstract mathematical ideas including topology and logic in understandable ways.... Her lively, accessible book demonstrates how important and intriguing such a pursuit can be.”
Scientific American

[A] funny and engaging new book.”
Simon Worrall, National Geographic News

Combined with infectious enthusiasm for cooking and a zest for life, Cheng's perspective on math becomes this singular book: a funny, lively, and clear journey no popular book on math has explored before. How to Bake Pi...will dazzle, amuse, and enlighten.”
Gambit Weekly

[Cheng's] book, a very gentle introduction to the main ideas of mathematics in general and category theory in particular, exudes enthusiasm for mathematics, teaching, and creative recipes. Category theory is dangerously abstract, but Cheng's writing is down-to-earth and friendly. She's the kind of person you'd want to talk to at a party, whether about math, food, music, or just the weather.... Cheng's cheerful, accessible writing and colorful examples make How to Bake Pi an entertaining introduction to the fundamentals of abstract mathematical thinking.”
Evelyn Lamb, Scientific American's Roots of Unity blog

[A] slyly illuminating dispatch on the deep meaning of mathematics.... Cheng manages to do for us what the mathematician Keith Devlin has said mathematicians do for themselves: she compels us to see numbers and symbols as vivid characters in an ongoing drama, a narrative in which we are alternately observers and participants.”
Natalie Angier, The American Scholar

Quirky recipes, personal anecdotes and a large dollop of equations are the key ingredients in this alternative guide to maths and the scientific process. You should find it as easy as cooking a pie.”
The Observer, Tech Monthly (UK)

A curious cookbook for the mathematical omnivore.”
The Irish Times (Ireland)

Eugenia Cheng's charming new book embeds math in a casing of wry, homespun metaphors: math is like vegan brownies, math is like a subway map, math is like a messy desk. Cheng is at home with math the way you're at home with brownies, maps, and desks, and by the end of How to Bake Pi, you might be, too.”
Jordan Ellenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of How Not to Be Wrong

What a charming and original book! The central analogy math is like cooking turns out to be surprisingly apt and often funny. Light and tasty, yet so, so good for you, How to Bake Pi is a real treat.”
Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University and author of The Joy of x

Why go to all the trouble to write a book to help people understand mathematics? Because, as Cheng observes, understanding is power, and if you help someone understand something, you're giving them power.' Read How to Bake Pi and you will, indeed, go away feeling empowered.”
Marc Merlin, Medium

[Cheng] masterfully describes what mathematics is. This includes careful and motivated descriptions of the ideas and methods of abstractions, generalization, logic, and axiomatization . This book is entertaining, insightful, deep and accessible.”
Mathematical Reviews

Through an enthusiasm for cooking and zest for life, the author, a math professor, provides a new way to think about a field we thought we knew.”
Chemical Engineering Progress

In her new book, How to Bake Pi, mathematician/baker Eugenia Cheng offers a novel, mathematical approach to cooking.... How to Bake Pi is more than a mathematically-minded cookbook. It is just as much a book about mathematical theory and how we learn it. The premise at the heart of the book is that the problem that stops a cookbook from teaching us how to cook is the same problem that makes math classes so bad at actually teaching us to do math.”
Ria Misra, io9
With this delightfully surprising book, Eugenia Cheng reveals the hidden beauty of mathematics with passion and simplicity. After reading How to Bake Pi, you won't look at math (nor porridge!) in the same way ever again.”
Roberto Trotta, Astrophysicist, Imperial College London and author of The Edge of the Sky

Math is a lot like cooking. We start with the ingredients we have at hand, try to cook up something tasty, and are sometimes surprised by the results. Does this seem odd? Maybe in school all you got was stale leftovers! Try something better: Eugenia Cheng is not only an excellent mathematician and pastry chef, but a great writer, too.”
John Baez, Professor of Math at the University of California, Riverside

From clotted cream to category theory, neither cookery nor math are what you thought they were. But deep down they're remarkably similar. A brilliant gourmet feast of what math is really about.”
Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, and author of Visions of Infinity and Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers

[O]ften entertaining...frequently illuminating.... [How to Bake Pi] offers enough nourishment for the brain to chew on for a long time.”
Columbus Dispatch

This is the best book imaginable to introduce someone who doesn't think they are interested in mathematics at all to some of the deep ideas of category theory, especially if they like to bake.”
MAA Reviews

Beginning each chapter with a recipe, Cheng converts the making of lasagna, pudding, cookies, and other comestibles into analogies illuminating the mathematical enterprise. Though these culinary analogies teach readers about particular mathematical principles and processes, they ultimately point toward the fundamental character of mathematics as a system of logic, a system presenting daunting difficulties yet offering rare power to make life easier. Despite her zeal for mathematical logic, Cheng recognizes that such logic begins in faith irrational faith and ultimately requires poetry and art to complement its findings. A singular humanization of the mathematical project.”
Booklist, starred review

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Cheng, Eugenia.
Editore: Basic Books. 1 Cloth(s) (2015)
ISBN 10: 0465051715 ISBN 13: 9780465051717
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Descrizione libro Basic Books. 1 Cloth(s), 2015. hard. Condizione libro: New. A tenured math professor in the rarefied field of category theory, Eugenia Cheng also has a passion for cooking, and in this delightful exploration of numbers she shows how closely the two are related. We learn, for example, how the béchamel in a lasagna can be a lot like the number 5, and why making a good custard proves that math is easy but life is hard. The book isn't all about cooking, though; Cheng also has readers run the New York and Chicago marathons, take a closer look at St. Paul's Cathedral, visit Cinderella and Lewis Carroll, and ponder why we think of the tomato as a vegetable. The heart of the book is Cheng's work on category theory, a cutting-edge "mathematics of mathematics" that is about figuring out how math works. "Invoking plenty of examples from cooking and baking, as well as other everyday-life situations such as calculating a taxi fare, searching for love through online dating services and training for a marathon, [Cheng] explains abstract mathematical ideas—including topology and logic—in understandable ways. Her lively, accessible book demonstrates how important and intriguing such a pursuit can be."—Scientific American"Even at her most whimsical [Cheng] is rigorous and insightful. Potentially confusing ideas are expressed with a matter-of-fact simplicity. How to Bake Pi is a welcome addition to the popular-math shelf. It would be wonderful if this book attracted a new audience to the field. And there's no better ambassador (or dinner-party host, I'd wager) than Eugenia Cheng."—NYTBR 288. Codice libro della libreria 72735

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