[Math Lair] Mazes for the Mind by Clifford Pickover

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Mazes for the Mind: Computers and the Unexpected by Clifford Pickover (St. Martin's Press, 1992) is Pickover's third popular book about computers and recreational mathematics. Like Pickover's two previous books (Computers, Pattern, Chaos and Beauty and Computers and the Imagination), the primary focus is on computer graphics generated through mathematical formulas (such as fractals); however, this book also explores a wide range of other material.

The book is divided into 78 chapters arranged into eight parts (Pattern, Games and Speculation, Music Beyond Imagination, Space, Time, Strange Technology, and Appendices). Topics covered include fractals, computer-generated images, diverse puzzles and games, number number sequences and patterns, music, mathematical-related speculation, even a short science-fiction story. There are also interludes briefly discussing mathematics- or computer-related art.

This is definitely the type of book that will make you think. Certainly much of the material is thought-provoking as it is; many chapters also contain a "Stop and Think" section with many questions to explore. Many chapters also contain a "Fact File" section containing curious and interesting facts. One could think of this book as an exploration of ideas, whether through computers or otherwise.

Pickover has written this book to be mostly accessible the general public; most of the sections don't require specialized knowledge to understand. Fully understanding everything in the book might require knowing about things such as number theory, elementary calculus and complex numbers, but even without that knowledge many readers should still be able to follow most of the chapters of the book without getting lost. Most of the chapters are only a few pages long, so a reader who does get lost doesn't need to turn far to find something they can understand. For more advanced readers, Pickover provides ample equations, pseudocode, and references to aid further exploration.

The book is extensively illustrated, with almost every page containing one or more diagrams, graphs, photographs, old woodcuts (not sure what some of the woodcuts are supposed to mean, but at least they're thought-provoking) and, or course, computer-generated images. There is also a short section of colour plates of computer-generated images in the middle of the book. The images still look fairly nice today, although generating computer images mathematically isn't something you see as much of nowadays.

For a 20-year-old book about computers, the book is still relevant today; the material is much less dated than other books from 20 years ago might be. Overall, the book is an entertaining and thought-provoking read and is highly recommended.

Rating: 9.5/10