- This event has passed.
- May 26, 2021
- Event Category:
- Author Events
presenting Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
in conversation with CATHY O’NEIL
Harvard Book Store’s virtual event series, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome mathematician and New York Times–bestselling author JORDAN ELLENBERG—author of How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking—for a discussion of his latest book, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else. He will be joined in conversation by CATHY O’NEIL, author of Weapons of Math Destruction.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Shape on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
How should a democracy choose its representatives? How can you stop a pandemic from sweeping the world? How do computers learn to play Go, and why is learning Go so much easier for them than learning to read a sentence? Can ancient Greek proportions predict the stock market? (Sorry, no.) What should your kids learn in school if they really want to learn to think? All these are questions about geometry. For real.
If you’re like most people, geometry is a sterile and dimly remembered exercise you gladly left behind in the dust of ninth grade, along with your braces and active romantic interest in pop singers. If you recall any of it, it’s plodding through a series of miniscule steps only to prove some fact about triangles that was obvious to you in the first place. That’s not geometry. Okay, it is geometry, but only a tiny part, which has as much to do with geometry in all its flush modern richness as conjugating a verb has to do with a great novel.
Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. Geometry asks: Where are things? Which things are near each other? How can you get from one thing to another thing? Those are important questions. The word “geometry,” from the Greek for “measuring the world.” If anything, that’s an undersell. Geometry doesn’t just measure the world—it explains it. Shape shows us how.
Praise for Shape
“[Jordan Ellenberg] is up to the engaging standard of his prior book . . . almost anyone is likely to enjoy Ellenberg’s prose, and mind.” —Harvard Magazine
“Serious mathematics at its intriguing, transporting best . . . [a] humorous, anecdotally rich dive into numerous mathematical theories.” —Kirkus
“Shape is a triumph of mathematical exposition, exposing profound truths—from the nature of distance to the predictability of randomness—as well as profound mistakes—from historical misattributions to Supreme Court justice hardheadedness—with eloquence and hilarious wit. Ellenberg’s evident affection for both his subject and his reader makes us feel like the lucky ones who get to hear him hold forth in an intimate setting about his favorite subject, mathematics.” —Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction
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