How To Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

Basic. May 2015. 320p. illus. index. ISBN 9780465051717. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780465051694. MATH
In this humorously titled work, Cheng (mathematics, Univ. of Sheffield, UK; Univ. of Chicago) combines her love of mathematics and cooking in an attempt to explain category theory to the layperson. There is hope that this theory, which provides a way to express ideas common to different areas of mathematics, may bring about advances in science. However, most of the areas of study in which category theory reveals insight through structural commonalities are fields such as group theory, topology, and mathematical logic; subjects that are themselves well beyond the mathematical background of most readers. Thus, the examples that the author has to offer are of the most elementary nature and really shed little light on the topic. In this personal memoir, Cheng tells us of her musical talent and training, her marathon running, and her general outlook on life. There is no doubt that she is a multitalented person and an outstanding expositor, but readers come away from the book knowing a great deal about the author and not much about the subject.
VERDICT This is a well-written, easy-to-read book, but one that has a limited audience.
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