a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)
|In this sequel to A Logical Magician, the mathematically trained wizard's assistant returns to fight evil monsters in Vegas and save his fiance (Merlin's daughter) from Hell.
I do like the idea that supernatural creatures, being more controlled by certain objective characteristics, are susceptible to logical analysis in a way that "overly emotional" humans are not. However, I did not find the particular ideas employed by Weinberg to be very interesting or creative.
Examples of the mathematical content include his challenging the Sphinx to explain Zeno's Paradox and trapping a genie in a Klein Bottle. (He also mentions that he would have brought up Cantor's diagonalization argument to outwit the Sphinx had Zeno not done the trick.)
In fact, there is not very much math in the book, and the little that is there is often incorrect. For instance, Zeno's Paradox is not really a "riddle" that one can answer. As a brief remark by another makes clear, the expected "answer" is the notion of convergent series, but the endnote that elaborates mistakenly makes it sound as if all infinite sums are finite. Even worse, his discussion of Möbius Strips and Klein Bottles is all very confused. His attempt to describe the interesting feature of a Möbius strip fails. (It is not that an ant can walk on it forever without reaching an edge since that is true of a cylinder and a sphere as well, but that if you stick a toothpick through the surface at one point, painting half of the stick red and half green, that the ant can start near the red half and walk on the surface until getting to the green side of the stick without having to go across an edge.) Also, aside from the fact that the defining characteristic of a Klein bottle is that it does not divide space into an inside and an outside (so there is no way to "trap" anything in it), the author clearly expresses a misconception that the difference between a Möbius strip and a Klein bottle is that one is two-dimensional and the other three-dimensional (they are, in fact both surfaces). Considering that the author earned an MA in math and taught briefly at the Illinois Institute of Technology, I might have expected better.
Anyway, to put it in perspective, this is an entertaining, light read which is better enjoyed if you don't try to think too much while reading.
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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)