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New Editions

Starting in October 2009 Amazon is offering an edition of Group Theory in the Bedroom for the Kindle electronic book reader.

The paperback edition of Group Theory in the Bedroom was officially released 14 April 2009.

Translations into Italian, Japanese and French are in the works.

Group Theory in the Bedroom is now available for browsing on Google Books (although only a selection of pages are accessible) Link.


Review by William Gasarch in ACM SIGACT News, September 2009, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 32–37. Link to the published review (available only to subscribers). Link to a freely available preprint. This is a joint review of six books on mathematics and computing. Excerpt: “None of the old standards are here. No truth-tellers who play NIM with counterfeit coins. Hence I learned the most from this book by far.”

Review by Jeanine Daems and Ionica Smeets, in The Mathematical Intelligencer, June 2009. Link. Excerpt: “When we first heard about Group Theory in the Bedroom, we became very enthusiastic. We were reminded of Mathematics and Sex by Clio Cresswell. We enjoyed that book a few years ago, but it contained too little mathematics to our taste (and surprisingly little about sex, for that matter). The title of Hayes’s book sounded very promising: More serious mathematics in the bedroom!”

Review by Chirashree Bhattacharya, in Math Horizons, February 2009, pp. 27. Excerpt: “Hayes details the journey of mathematical discovery with bubbling enthusiasm, a free-flowing writing style and abundant wit, making it all seem natural and irresistible. And he does it while keeping mathematical jargon to a minimum. Students should find this accessible and entertaining. For instructors, these essays could be an excellent source of examples, reading assignments or student projects (there is a bibliography at the very end for each essay). I thoroughly enjoyed reading every line and highly recommend this book.”

Review by David Austen in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 56, No. 2, February 2009, pp. 237–238. Link to issue; link to PDF. Excerpt: “As much as any book I can name, Group Theory in the Bedroom conveys to a general audience the playfulness involved in doing mathematics: how questions arise as a form of play, how our first attempts at answering questions usually seem naive in hindsight but are crucial for finding eventual solutions, and how a good solution just feels right. As Hayes writes, “I’m not a mathematician, but I’ve been hanging out with some of them long enough to know how the game is played.” In addition, Hayes’ writing, with its openness, invites the reader to participate actively. I often felt I was having a conversation, and at times an argument, with the author. ”

Review by Craig Bauer in MAA Reviews (web site of the Mathematical Associaton of America); review posted June 13, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “Part of my expectation in picking up a book of mathematical essays aimed at a general audience is that I will find material outside of my own area of expertise that I can weave into the classes I teach, expanding my set of interesting examples, applications, and anecdotes. Hayes succeeded in meeting this expectation.”

Brief review in Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 81, No. 3, June, 2008, p. 228. Excerpt: “Get past the innuendo of the title (after all, it’s about turning a mattress)—what you have here is a collection of a dozen pieces of the best scientific writing around (“Every essay in this book is a gem”—Martin Gardner). They are a small fraction of author Hayes’s “Computing Science” column in American Scientist over the past 15 years (so we can look forward happily to future compilations!)”

Review by Sara Lippincott, The Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2008. “A mathematician shares his love of numbers, grids and graphs.” Link. Excerpt: “In a desperate attempt to reach the vast and uninterested lay public, mathematicians are forever shrouding their discipline in come-hither clothes. The choice of title for this essay collection by Brian Hayes, a columnist for American Scientist, is an example. “Group Theory in the Bedroom” -- wow, what’s in the offing here?”

Review by “the Naughty Bookworm,” Passion.com, May 7, 2008. Link. (Note: This web site warns of “sexually explicit material.” The reviewer was disappointed to find that the book doesn't include any.) Excerpt: “Sex and Math. You would think I would be in heaven at the mere thought that somebody had written a book combining these two things. And this book would be heaven if it had combined those two things. Instead, sadly, this is a case where the title is both a little too literal and yet not quite accurate.”

First Amazon.com customer review, by William Gronos, April 30, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “If you liked the book “Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything” (which I loved), there is a good chance you will like this one too.... A great book with a wide variety of interesting subjects and an engaging, erudite writing style.”

Review by Mike Newirth, Time Out Chicago, Issue 164, Apr 17­23, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “Brian Hayes... is an unrepentant numbers nut. His second book (following 2005's Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape) compiles and updates approximately a decade's worth of his most significant articles, creating an elegant and high-minded overview of how rigorous mathematical laws intersect with and govern our daily lives.”

Review by Mark Athitakis, “How Things Add Up,” The Star Tribune (Minneapolis St. Paul), April 11, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “Hayes isn't a mathematician, which is often to his credit: His best pieces have a journalistic looseness that dovetails nicely with the academic rigor he brings to the subject matter. Indeed, the opening essay, on the immense (and immensely complex) clock at Strasbourg Cathedral, is a masterpiece of science writing.”

Review by Peter Chomko, “Hayes makes equations interesting and inciting,” The Temple News, April 7, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “Hayes is that rare combination: a man comfortable in both the scientific world of mathematics and the uncertain terrain of language. His facility with numbers is equaled—possibly even excelled—only by his talent for thinking and writing about interesting ideas in interesting ways.”

Review by Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes and Noble Review, March 24, 2008. Excerpt: “Brian Hayes... has garnered a National Magazine Award for his 1999 essay ‘Clock of Ages.“ That meditation on long-term engineering leads off the diverting and mind-expanding pieces collected in Group Theory in the Bedroom.... In “On the Teeth of Wheels,“ he comes very close to crafting a quintessential steampunk narrative, cousin to Gibson and Sterling“s The Difference Engine.”

Review by Justin Mullins, New Scientist, Vol. 197, Issue 2648, 22 March 2008, page 45. Link. Excerpt: “If you ever lie awake pondering the complexities of the universe, you may have a soul buddy in Brian Hayes.... Often idiosyncratic, but always fascinating, it is a pleasure to dip into.”

Review by Greg Wilson, The Third Bit, February 19, 2008. Link. Also published in Dobbs Code Talk, February 21, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “Fans of Martin Gardner’s long-running Scientific American column are particularly likely to enjoy Hayes’ tone, insight, and playful curiosity.”

Review by Denise Dayton, Library Journal, February 15, 2008. Link. Excerpt: “If your idea of fun includes puzzling over the creation of an algorithm for the Continental Divide, then this essay collection by the former editor in chief of American Scientist(AS) will tickle your imagination. Hayes, now an award-winning columnist for AS, has put together some of his best pieces and has included with each a section called ‘Afterthoughts,’ in which he enthusiastically adds new information and humbly corrects old mistakes.”

Review, Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2008. Excerpt: “A selection of ‘Computing Science’ columns by American Scientist magazine’s former editor-in-chief.... Challenging but rewarding for anyone intrigued by numbers.”

Review by Gilbert Taylor, Booklist, January 1, 2008. Excerpt: “These essays, collected from Hayes’ writings for American Scientist, are quite accessible to a general-interest audience drawn to mathematics as recreation.... Hayes expresses a relaxed, bemused style in a dozen pieces. Combined with his topical variety, including base-3 arithmetic, DNA coding, and the distribution of wealth, Hayes may earn a wider audience with this appealing and entertaining volume.”

Review, Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2007. Link. Excerpt: “In charming prose that more or less makes up for the relative lack of rigor in many of his explorations, about which Hayes is refreshingly honest... science and technology journalist Hayes (Infrastructure) explains the engineering and arithmetic of clocks and gears, wracks his brain over questions of how best to flip a mattress and visits ‘the prettiest wrong idea in all of twentieth-century science....’”


Radio interview with Colin Marshall, The Marketplace of Ideas, KCSB, Santa Barbara. Available through streaming audio, as an MP3 file and an iTunes podcast.

Radio interview with Dorian Devins, The Speakeasy, WFMU-FM, Monday May 26, 2008, at 6 p.m. Also available through streaming audio and podcasts.

Book-jacket blurbs

Every essay in this book is a gem of science writing at its highest level—accurate, up-to-date, brimming with surprising information, deep insights, and a profound love of mathematics. Its scope is awesome. Topics include a fantastic clock in Strasbourg, randomness, poverty, war, geology, genetics, gear ratios, partitions, nomenclature, group theory, and the ambiguity of the equal sign. There isn’t a dull page in the book.

—Martin Gardner

Brian Hayes’s book is a refreshing collection of superb mathematical essays. Ranging from choosing up sides to choosing names, the topics are intriguingly nonstandard. Moreover, the writing is clean, the explanations are pellucid, and the effect on the reader is exhilarating. First-rate all the way through.

—John Allen Paulos

Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions is a marvelous collection of thought-provoking essays that both inform and entertain. You’ll be amazed by the things you’ll discover in these pages.

—Ron Graham

From the publisher’s catalogue

An Award-Winning Essayist Plies His Craft. Brian Hayes is one of the most accomplished essayists active today—a claim supported not only by his prolific and continuing high-quality output but also by such honors as the National Magazine Award for his commemorative Y2K essay titled “Clock of Ages,” published in the November/December 1999 issue of The Sciences magazine. (The also-rans that year included Tom Wolfe, Verlyn Klinkenborg, and Oliver Sacks.) Hayes’s work in this genre has also appeared in such anthologies as The Best American Magazine Writing, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Norton Reader. Here he offers us a selection of his most memorable and accessible pieces—including “Clock of Ages”—embellishing them with an overall, scene-setting preface, reconfigured illustrations, and a refreshingly self-critical “Afterthoughts” section appended to each essay.