Satyan Devadoss and Matt Harvey, "Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries" (MIT Press, 2020)

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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 (MIT Press, 2020) 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.

Galina Limorenko is a doctoral candidate in Neuroscience with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative diseases at EPFL in Switzerland. To discuss and propose the book for an interview you can reach her at galina.limorenko@epfl.ch.

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