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The Edge of the Universe: Celebrating Ten Years of Math Horizons

Deanna Haunsperger and Stephen Kennedy, editors
Mathematical Association of America
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Sarah Boslaugh
, on

The Edge of the Universe is a selection of articles from the first ten years of Math Horizons, a journal published by the Mathematical Association of America. These articles were intended for undergraduates interested in mathematics but not necessarily with a strong background in the subject: many of them will also interest amateur mathematicians and ambitious high school students.

The volume was put together by Deanna Haunsperger and Stephen Kennedy, who edited Math Horizons from 1999 to 2003, the last five years of the period covered here. Haunsperger received her undergraduate degree from Simpson College and her PhD from Northwestern University, where she studied voting theory with Don Saari. Kennedy received his undergraduate degree from Boston University and his PhD from Northwestern University where he studied dynamical systems with Bob Williams. They currently teach at Carleton College, where they have directed the Carleton Summer Mathematics Program for Women since 1995.

The articles in The Edge of the Universe cover a variety of topics: there are biographies, historical articles, mathematical puzzles, and expositions and demonstrations of interesting mathematical topics. The title comes from Frank A. Farris' article "The Edge of the Universe: Noneuclidean Wallpaper", one of two Trevor Evans award winners for outstanding mathematical writing for undergraduates in 2002.

The Edge of the Universe is a large-format (9" by 11") volume, and most articles are copiously illustrated, some in full color. The articles, first published in the years 1994-2003, are arranged in chronological order. While this is a reasonable arrangement for browsing (and for the purpose of commemorating the journal Math Horizons), it makes it difficult to find articles relating to a particular topic, particularly since article titles are often more clever than informative about the focus of an article. An index, or a list of articles arranged by topic, would be a welcome addition and make this volume more useful.

Sarah Boslaugh, PhD, MPH, is a Performance Analyst for BJC HealthCare in Saint Louis, Missouri. She published An Intermediate Guide to SPSS Programming with Sage Publications in 2005 and is currently editing The Encyclopedia of Epidemiology for Sage (forthcoming, 2007) and writing Secondary Data Sources for Public Health (forthcoming, 2007) for Cambridge University Press. She can be reached at


akirak's picture

I was quite impressed with this book. The magnitude of the achievement of the editors of Math Horizons becomes much clearer as one looks at the articles "in bulk." Anyone interested in mathematics or in mathematicians will be fascinated, and will find many articles that will grab and then reward their attention.

I can testify to the book's appeal to non-mathematicians. My wife picked it up because it looked snazzy, started turning the pages to look at the pictures, and then read several of the articles. She especially enjoyed the profiles, pointing out that they reveal a side of the mathematical community not often displayed, namely, that a lot of mathematicians are just very nice people. Martin Gardner, in particular, comes off as the hero in several of the profiles, confirming once again his immense positive influence on American mathematics.

In summary: a book not to be missed!