Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Lot to write not enough time. Today was a brilliant day. Mechanics for breakfast- which actually tasted quite nice when understood and maths books for lunch! My supervisor is a genius. Full stop. Shame he's not teaching next year, but then again will I be taking mechanics next year?!!

I'm afraid that if I was to write about my 'mock seventh birthday' then it'd take a while! I wasn't going to post today but something else happened which has changed my mind. BTW I'm pretty sure that my personal tutor said that I'm somewhat precarious for a seven year old, (upon telling him that I am turning seven), but I'm not hundred percent sure. (I didn't really know what that word meant, and upon googling that's the closest to what I think he said, and it makes the most sense :D) I did say that I liked my personal tutor for a reason, even he's made the chaos link! (if I've understood the word correctly!)

Anyway, too business. In some other post I mentioned that I had bought a copy of 'Concepts of Modern Mathematics' by Ian Stewart, second hand. Do follow that link BTW, and note down the price. It arrived today (much to my delight!):

Now naturally I added this to my collection, however I noticed that this copy was particularly old. I didn't mind since I'd got it for £3.00, but upon further examination I realised that I had one of the first ever published editions of this book. Well I'm pretty sure that the copy I have, was published in 1975. I realised that surely there must be a new edition and obviously, having looked up the link I've added above I noticed that a new revised edition had been published in 1995. For a second I did wonder on how much the content would differ, since my copy has about 310 pages whereas the latest one has about 350. The ISBN numbers also seem to differ, but that's not something which I'll worry myself over.

Anyway, if you'd noticed- we'd have to pay £11.50 to buy the latest edition of this book. I would probably, most likely, definitely (to the dismay of my mother!) pay that much money for a book. I mean I have already done so, but that's not the questions. Even further examination of the book (I was shocked that it was still 'alive' so to speak!), I came across this on the bottom corner of the back:

Eighty flippin pence for a book! Wow, if only we rolled back the years eh? That was 30 odd years ago (you do the maths ;) ), but still from 80p to £11.50, times have moved on I suppose. Imagine how many books I can buy if they cost 80p each. I wasn't even born then! So yeah, this is just me wishing that maths book did actually cost 80p. Obviously the 'old' version shouldn't differ too much from the 'new' one, but I feel like I've acquired an ancient artifact! Thankfully it's not the only second hand book I own- so it won't feel left out with the others.

What's the cheapest maths book you've ever bought? I've got three other second hand books, all published in the 1960/70s (ish) which I got for £3.50 each, but this has to be the cheapest at £3.00. (Well the others were hardback, but if they weren't then they'd probably be cheaper). Word of advice when buying second hand: ask the buyer when the book was published and which edition they have. I mean obviously a book on Linear Algebra will still be useful now- but books from the 1960s and 70s (wow that's a while back!) don't have the same 'structure' as the recent ones like Poole's Linear Algebra one. They're more challenging to read, one could say, and most stuff is left for the reader to prove (not a bad thing now, but initially I was slightly put off!). Actually that's only one of the books (the 1960 one) but they're all pretty neat and cheap. (One could argue that I don't need them, but they add to my collection so I'm happy!).

(My book collection post must wait for the end of exams!)


steve said...

I'm pretty sure that my personal tutor said that I'm somewhat precarious for a seven year old, (upon telling him that I am turning seven), but I'm not hundred percent sure.


beans said...

Ah... yes that sounds more like it! Google corrected my rubbish attempt at that word to be precious- so I thought of adding an 'a'. :o

Actually I'm ashamed that I didn't know what that word meant- since the other day another lecturer said something along the same lines! (When I asked for a bunch of bananas for my birthday!)

Thanks a lot Steve (once again!)- I'm thinking of editing that post, but might just leave it to remind myself of how dumb I was when I wasn't properly 7! (i.e. 6.95) But yes- the saying egg on my face springs to mind, although once again whether it's being used correctly is another question!

(This is quite amusing- truth be told, in an embarrasing way of course! :o )

egm said...

Steve took the words outa my fingers! I was just itching to type precocious when I saw he had beaten me to it.

I have the latest edition of Concepts of Modern Mathematics. One difference I already know exists is in the notes. In the main text, he mentions Fermat's Last Theorem as being unsolved, then in the notes he points out that it was solved by Wiles. The edition I have was published after that proof was found. Every new edition of a book will have a different ISBN number, as it is essentially a different book from the one before, even though the changes might be small.

The cheapest maths book I ever bought? how about 79 cents. As for the absolute cheapest book I bought, try 1 cent. Yup. You read that right. Shipping for both books (I bought them on Amazon) was a whopping $3.49 each.

Jake said...

The cheapest mathematics I have ever bought is a first edition of 'Naive Set Theory' by Halmos for 50p purchased at Oxfam Books.

It isn't in great condition so I don't think it is worth much and I haven't worked through it all yet but one point of historical interest is that it mentions something about the continuum hypothesis still being an open question (I think it predated Paul Cohen's proof of its independence from ZFC by about 2-3 years).

I have bought another couple of maths books from the same shop (and other charity shops) for prices around 50p-£2. Some of them aren't even that useful yet (or aren't that useful to me anymore) but I find it hard to pass up on any math related books when they are that cheap. Its a pathetic hobby really but I am sure that some of them will come in handy in later years and also, with some of the older hardback ones, I just like the look and style of them.

steve said...

I do like Naïve Set Theory which is brilliantly written in Halmos inimitable style. The last sentence of the Preface could only have been written by him:

general set theory is pretty trivial stuff really, but, if you want to be a mathematician, you need some, and here it is; read it absorb it and forget it.

Unfortunately he died recently but you can see him give a talk on Mathematical Writing. It's the one dated December 9, 1987.

beans said...


I think the watching the teletubbies, tweenies (etc!), is having the wrong effect on me. :o :o

You have to include postage and packaging! Since otherwise Concepts of Modern Mathematics would have only cost me £0.99! I didn't know the ISBN number changed, and upon seeing if you could still get my version of the book, I found that you can get it of amazon for 1 cent as well!

I bought a book online from Blackwells, and I wouldn't recommend it. I mean they arrive- not always on time- but they're not always in great condition. I tend to order them in store nowadays, and pick them up when they arrive. (In this way you don't have to pay extra p&p costs).

beans said...


I guess I need to take a leaf out of your book and go visit the Oxfam books. (I think if we're getting them that cheap, we can't exactly complain about them being in great condition! As long as they're readable.. :D).

I must also confess as to doing what you do- as one of my later posts will prove! Some people collect stamps and what not, so we should proudly say (in the quietest possible way of course) that we collect maths books. Before we started Linear Algebra I saw a few second hand books and just bought them because I thought they may be useful- two were pretty good, but the other two just look good!

(I've learnt my lesson from trying to buying them all 'new'.) I must continue and agree that they don't make the harback ones like they used to! :o

(I'll shut up now and watch my pile in envy, since I can't read any of them yet!)

beans said...


Thanks for the link. I've been told that his book 'I want to be a mathematician' is good, but I'll be on the look out for Naive Set Theory!

Lol, I seem to have 'forgotten' most of what we'd done on the set theory as well- so I guess that's not such a bad thing after all!