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E9: Jordan Ellenberg: Shape & Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else

We sat with Dr. Jordan Ellenberg to discuss his latest book Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.

Jordan is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the Believer. His 2014 book How Not To Be Wrong was a New York Times bestseller and was one of Bill Gates’ top five summer books.

Shape is a book about practical aspects of geometry and mathematics written for a general audience. And yes, perhaps the mere word may conjure thoughts of shapes, theorems, and lectures. However, Jordan, masterfully demystifies the fundamentals, making it approachable to a broader audience.

Geometry escapes the boundaries of scientific abstraction and it is very much entrenched in the fabric of reality, governing everything from political discourse, the fly path of mosquitoes, the spread of pandemics, artificial intelligence, and even poetry…Geometry is simply a quintessential part of our everyday lives, or as its author explains it, “We can’t help but being geometric”. Questions such as How many holes does a straw have? which may appear trivial become paradoxical when looked through the lens of geometry. This epitomizes math’s ability to spark scientific curiosity, and to produce some hilariously entertaining snapchats. But It also helps us understand its consequential nature and the role it plays in practical issues surrounding politics, the spread of deceases, and the raise of machine learning algorithms. All of which are governed by the same laws and are subject to exploitation. This is what makes Shape such an important text. It effectively democratizes concepts traditionally relegated to textbooks and classrooms, making this book not just quite the entertaining read, but also highly critical to understand some of the mechanics of the world.

A book we are certain you’ll enjoy from cover to cover.


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