NO PAIN, NO GAIN: When The Mathematicians Didn’t Give Up!


Title: Why Beauty is Truth- a History of Symmetry

Author: Ian Stewart

Available: English and Italian

Maths. What a sucks. Maths. I hate it, I don’t understand it, it’s not useful to calculate Pytagora’s theorem at the supermarket. Addiction, subtraction, multiplication and division are enough for our life, aren’t them? No, of course, they aren’t and this book can demonstrate it. Thanks to the biographies of some amazing mathematicians,  it’s clear that historical events and science are strictly tangled.

Initially there was an algebric problem, now there is the “string theory”. What was there in the middle? The discovery of symmetry, that is a specific type of transformation; in others words, a specific method to relocate objects.The first mathematician who created a language  to describe the structure’s symmetry and calculate the consequences was Galois. His discovery is nowadays called “groups theory” and its application deals with physic and computer science.

Why beauty is truth” begins its journey from the ancient past: Babylon and Persia with arabs, greeks and Alexander the Great. We then meet Fibonacci during the Italian Middle Ages and Tartaglia, Cardano and Ferrari during the Renaissance-with all the disagreements between the last two. We’ll be familiar with the brilliant Niels Abel from the north and we’ll suffer cause of his tragic love story (who says that mathematicians are unfeeling?). Gauss, that genius (click here for the Gauss Project) probably will feel you dumb, but his brilliant mind will fascinate you, like that Galois, a foolish rebel. Another great mathematician was Dirac: as good at studies as unfit at the lab. His attitude was called “Dirac effect”. Poor soul!

I’m aware I haven’t said a word about symmetry or mathematical theories explained in the book. Of course I have a good answer, that is Ian Stewart, the author. He is a great mathematician and a famous writer (“Does God play dice?”, “Flatterland” ) and, like your smart best friend explains a difficult exercise to you in a funny way, he opens the door of maths with naturalness. Moreover, Stewart is such an amazing writer: with clear and well-finished style, you don’t feel learning maths at all (and this is my easy way out). Readers will surely appreciate the quotes of Terry Prachett and James Joyce, making the text pleasant.

A weird recurring detail in the book is the computation mistake by the most of mathematicians. There wasn’t any calculators, apps or pc programs at the time and calculations were handmade (sorry, mindmade for those masterminds), but I was puzzled about the situation. How is it possible they couldn’t calculate properly? A friend of mine thinks that  mathematicians live in a huge logic word, with a lot of theory and few computation. She is one of them, obviously.


The Gauss Party’s Project – Maths Meets Litterature

Credits: Redooc

Credits: Redooc

Hi everyone, this is a very special post for bookworms (especially italian ones)!

“Gauss Party” will be a collection of short stories about maths and it’s weird paths. However, “Gauss Party” needs you thanks to  crowdfunding!! For this reason, please, like, share and donate!


FROM ZERO TO HERO: the immortal life of an (un)known woman

TITLE: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

AUTHOR: Rebecca Skloot

AVAILABLE: English and Italian

How much time did you spent on  biology school book studying the brick of life, the cell? How many times have you heard carelessly  about new discoveries of biology thanks to some immortal cellular lines? How many times have you asked yourself about who donate their cells for the science? If your answers are a lot, sometimes and never, please continue reading this review and then run to the library or a bookshop.

USA,1958: a black woman, Henrietta Lacks, dies because of a uterin cervix cancer. She wasn’t the first and won’t be the last woman who will face to this type of ordeal. During one of her last medical examination, doctors collected a sample of tumoral cells for some laboratory tests. At that time there weren’t any strict laws about the collection of biological samples for medicine, least of all if your skin had got  a great concentration of melanine .Henrietta Lacks and her husband

While Henrietta’s family was celebrating the funeral, in the laboratory there was a sort of rebirth of science and biology. In fact, the tumoral cells of Henrietta had got something special, and they were very different from thousands of other cells already tested: they were immortal. These strange cells live and increase without any problem. The research breathes again thanks to HeLa.

On one hand biomedical discoveries has changed the history of medicine, obtaining prizes and success, but on the other hand the life of Henrietta’s heirs was harsh to make ends meet. Moreover they were at total darkness about the amazing cells of  their relative. The unawareness was one of the problems which  Rebecca Skloot, a scientific journalist, had to deal with. The hunt, for this book, took ten years. She chased Henrietta through the story of her family, official archives and direct evidences.

Skloot writes a complex book (it’s an essay, an article, a novel) with openness and expertise. Although some parts are a bit arduous, it’s a good reading for non experts people. Don’t be scared for the more four hundreds pages because you will be captured in them.

Finally, did Rebecca Skloot find Henrietta Lacks? Enjoy the adventure!