A Mathematical Mystery Tour

A new book explores the relationships between the mathematical and natural worlds.

By Charles Seife
Apr 16, 2008 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:44 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

One to Nine: The Inner Life of Numbers by Andrew Hodges

(W. W. Norton, $23.95)

One to Nine takes readers on a dizzying digit-by-digit tour of the mathematical and natural worlds. The number five reminds Andrew Hodges of a peculiar mathematical object related to the propagation of bunnies and the pattern of sunflower heads. Three prompts him to riff on color vision (there are three types of color receptor in the eye) and subatomic particles (“Three quarks for Muster Mark!”). Four introduces a discussion of musical scales and the theory of relativity. A byte, eight bits long, leads to an essay about computers and unimaginably large numbers.

Hodges may be more fond of tangents than linear narrative, but no matter. Numbers have uncountable volumes of stories to tell; should the publisher be so inclined, there are infinite opportunities for sequels.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.