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Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries

Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries

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Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
The MIT Press
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Sixteen of today's greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles in a story-driven, illustrated volume that invites readers to peek over the edge of the unknown.

Most people think of mathematics as a set of useful tools designed to answer analytical questions, beginning with simple arithmetic and ending with advanced calculus. But, as Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries shows, mathematics is filled with intriguing mysteries that take us to the edge of the unknown. This richly illustrated, story-driven volume presents sixteen of today's greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles, all understandable by anyone with elementary math skills. These intriguing mysteries are presented to readers as puzzles that have time-traveled from Camelot, preserved in the notebook of Merlin, the wise magician in King Arthur's court.

Our guide is Mage Maryam (named in honor of the brilliant young mathematician, the late Maryam Mirzakhani), a distant descendant of Merlin. Maryam introduces the mysteries—each of which is presented across two beautifully illustrated pages—and provides mathematical and historical context afterward. We find Merlin confronting mathematical puzzles involving tinker toys (a present for Camelot's princesses from the sorceress Morgana), cake-slicing at a festival, Lancelot's labyrinth, a vault for the Holy Grail, and more. Each mystery is a sword awaiting removal from its stone, capturing the beauty and power of mathematics.

About the Author

Satyan Linus Devadoss is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Applied Mathematics and Professor of Computer Science at the University of San Diego. A recipient of two national teaching awards, he has published on topics ranging from origami and cartography to phylogenetics and particle collisions.

Matthew Harvey is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia's College at Wise and the author of the textbook Geometry Illuminated.

Praise for Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries

"This book is wonderfully unique — an irresistible call to join the quest for the treasures of mathematics."
– TaiDanae Bradley, coauthor of Topology: A Categorical Approach and creator of the math blog Math3ma

"An elegant, charming collection of 16 mathematical jewels: problems so simple they can be explained in a single page, yet so hard they can't be solved in a single century."
– Ben Orlin, author of Math with Bad Drawings and Change is the Only Constant: The Wisdom of Calculus in a Madcap World

"Taste the sweet enchantment of this medley of unsolved problems. Some are classical, and some are less well known, but all are easy to understand, because the authors have recast them in novel ways to entice both new and seasoned mathematical explorers. Devadoss and Harvey will captivate the mathematical yearning within each one of us."
– Francis Su, Professor of Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College; Former President, Mathematical Association of America; author of Mathematics for Human Flourishing

"This is a fun and delightfully illustrated text covering a wide range of accessible topics from the recreational to the unsolved. Each is presented as a mystery (as all good mathematics is!), spanning geometry, combinatorics, number theory, and beyond. A dedicated reader will derive great satisfaction from wrestling with the challenges presented here."
– Alex Kontorovich, Professor of Mathematics, Rutgers University; Dean of Academic Content, National Museum of Mathematics

"This unique book will charm and delight mathematical explorers of all ages with its beautiful illustrations, captivating story, and unsolved mathematical challenges that range from geometry to number theory and more." 

"Highly recommended."