“Magical Mathematics” by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham

This was a gift from my wonderful friend AHM, following the death of Graham last year. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but it’s also very weird. For example, chapters bounce around dramatically in tone and content (some are about mathematical magic tricks, some are really just about mathematics, several pages are devoted to teaching the reader how to juggle, there are profiles of a bunch of magicians, …), some parts seemed like they could only be appreciated by someone who knew an awful lot of math, others by someone who knew an awful lot of magic. Another oddity was that the mathematical convention of writing in the first-person plural (“We use this to show …”) is preserved when speaking about the personal history of each of the authors separately. But overall I really enjoyed and appreciated it: the magic tricks are accompanied by discussion that makes it easy to imagine them being performed, or to make them actually performable by the reader (I did a baby version of a de Bruijn sequence-based trick in my graph theory class), the mathematical content is solid and interesting, and the view into the magic community was fascinating.

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