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I wrote reviews of Jordan Ellenberg’s How Not to Be Wrong and Richard Schwartz’s Really Big Numbers earlier this year, and both would make good gifts.
Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer was a 19th century machine that used gears to perform Fourier analysis mechanically. Bill Hammack, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has made a superb set of YouTube videos that show the machine in action. He, Steve Kranz, and Bruce Carpenter have also put together a beautiful book illustrating exactly how it worked. Bonus: if you’re cheap, there is a free pdf version of the book available at the website.
The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer is about family, grief, the immigrant experience, and the Navier-Stokes problem. Few novels center around mathematicians, and while some of the characters in this book are a bit stereotypical, he portrays many mathematicians with complexity and sympathy, and I was drawn in to the story.
Zombies and Calculus by Colin Adams is not for the squeamish, and I’m squeamish. But if the mathletes in your life don’t mind a few bashed-in brains, they can probably handle this book. The book gently introduces mathematical concepts such as tangents, curves of pursuit, and exponential growth within the framework of an over-the-top zombie apocalypse story.
John Napier gave birth to the logarithm 400 years ago, and there’s a new biography of him by Julian Havil that explores not only his mathematical work but also his personality and the treatise on the Book of Revelation that he thought he would be remembered by. Bonus points if you give the recipient of this book a slide rule too.
Oliver Byrne’s edition of Euclid’s Elements. This is a reprint of the 1847 edition of the Elements that uses beautiful diagrams in primary colors to illustrate the proofs.
I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet, but with a title like Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, I’m guessing Matt Parker’s new book will be pretty fun.
Source: Scientific American (blog)