Best known as the longtime writer of the Mathematical Games column for "Scientific American"--which introduced generations of readers to the joys of recreational mathematics--Martin Gardner has for decades pursued a parallel career as a devastatingly effective debunker of what he once famously dubbed "fads and fallacies in the name of science." It is mainly in this latter role that he is onstage in this collection of choice essays. "When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish" takes aim at a gallery of amusing targets, ranging from Ann Coulter's qualifications as an evolutionary biologist to the logical fallacies of precognition and extrasensory perception, from Santa Claus to "The Wizard of Oz," from mutilated chessboards to the little-known "one-poem poet" Langdon Smith (the original author of this volume's title line). The writings assembled here fall naturally into seven broad categories: Science, Bogus Science, Mathematics, Logic, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, and Politics. Under each heading, Gardner displays an awesome level of erudition combined with a wicked sense of humor.
About the Author
Martin Gardner is the author of more than seventy books, as well as countless magazine articles and other shorter works. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
“Smart, witty essays on science and culture.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times “Martin Gardner is indispensable. Here’s the perfect introduction to the range of his obsessions—from Ann Coulter to the Wizard of Oz. With Gardner, the exercise of reason and taste is always a virtuoso performance.” —William Poundstone, bestselling author of 12 books, including the forthcoming Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) “Martin Gardner keeps knocking my socks off. After all these years, I thought I knew his work inside and out, but this latest collection is full of surprises. Alongside some Gardner classics (a celebration of the Fibonacci numbers, a debunking of parapsychology) we are treated to essays on Santa Claus, the sinking of the Titanic, and a ‘one-poem poet’ who turned the evolution of life on earth into a love story.” —Brain Hayes, author of Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions “Another provocative set of debunking essays from Mr. Gardner. Golden oldies, platinum perennials, contemporary cuties—however characterized, the pieces reveal once again the limpidity of his thought and the engagingness of his prose. Good stuff!” —John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy and Irreligion “From Ann Coulter to the Anthropic Principle, Martin Gardner is a magician’s magician, opening our minds to the crazy world around us. These essays are fun to read, and have deep roots and pointers to follow if you want to know more.” —Persi Diaconis, Stanford University