Book Reviews

I am collecting reviews of my books on separate pages: Maths 1001, How to build a Brain/ Mathematics without the boring bits, The Maths Handbook, Chaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes, and Maths in 100 Key Breakthroughs


An Enormous Theorem

My article won the Plus New Writers Competition in 2006, judged by Marcus du Sautoy (University of Oxford), John D Barrow (University of Cambridge), and Helen Joyce, Education Correspondent for The Economist.

“This is an excellent article. The author gave a real insight into the process of doing mathematics. This is the art of good popular science writing.” – Marcus du Sautoy

“In both content and style, Richard’s article is on a par with the best Plus authors – which include Roger Penrose, Geradus t’Hooft, John D Barrow, and Simon Singh.” – Marianne Freiberger, editor of Plus Magazine


Ultimate logic: To infinity and beyond

“[an] excellent article” – Tim Wilkinson

“Wow… such a refreshing and informative article.” – Grant Holland

“very cool” – Eric P. Charles

“Great article” – S. P. McCann

“A very readable article” – Alexander Bogomolny @CutTheKnotMath

“Thank you Richard! I’m no mathematician by any stretch, but I found this article interesting! You did explain this well despite the subject matter, and in such a way as to impressed upon the reader that there remains interesting things about mathematics yet to be discovered” – Pag

“This is an impressive piece of mathematical exposition. The subject of large cardinals is of course very technical, but you do a good job of conveying the flavor.” – Walt of Ars Mathematica


The algorithm that runs the world

“did a great job in making something mind meltingly dull sound quite interesting” – Ben Abramson

“Really enjoyed your simplex feature this week, which surprised me as I found the algorithm very dull at school! ” – Jacob Aron


Something doesn’t add up

“This is a great article, and Elwes is to be commended for bringing Harvey Friedman’s results to the wider public.” – Timothy Y. Chow

“Very Nice and Cleverly Written!” – Harvey Friedman


Knot or Not?

“People may be interested to learn a bit about Richard Elwes. He seems to be pretty serious about explaining math to a broad audience… but he seems to have a sense of humor, too” – John Baez

“I was delighted by the Knot Theory/Category Theory article. It is a gem” – Jonathan Vos Post, in the comments at the n-Category Café


Large cardinals: maths shaken by the ‘unprovable’

My article was included in the Daily Telegraph ‘Editors Choice’ selection online. It also received over 1000 Facebook recommendations, and was tweeted 100 times.


Exotic spheres, or why 4-dimensional space is a crazy place

“This is fascinating! And it’s so well written that even though it’s completely readable even to total maths beginners, it goes into quite a lot of interesting detail.” – dieyoubastards on

“a great read and will put a smile on the face of any Lovecraft fan and give you a whirlwind tour of exotic mathematics at the same time” – Frater210 on Above Top Secret

“Eldritch Mathematician, Dr Richard Elwes” – Frater210 on Above Top Secret

“some interesting parallels between descriptions of Yog-Sothoth, and current ideas of the geometry of higher dimension.” – AHTZIB at Miskatonic Museum

“Oh, this is just perfect! Who knew Lovecraft was a hard science fiction author? At any rate, I am now resolved to devote a bit more study to mathematics for my own writing as a result of this article, and I’m a guy who avoids math (history degree). Nicely done!” – Christopher Baughman


Talking Maths on The Tube

“Dr Elwes was a total dude. He looked like he could have been in one of the bands we had on.” – Alex James, in The Independent


Little Atoms

“great… really engaging look at the fundamentals of maths for a relatively lay listener.” – Michael Marshall, presenter of Strange Quarks and Skeptics with a K


Simple City

“Richard Elwes is a mere youngster, born in 1978. Growing up and living in England, he ‘matches’ my stereotype of Brits; he has a subtle, slightly twisted sense of humor which is shared in [Maths 1001] and on his weblog.” – sleeper54 at