JOSEPH HENRY PRESS
A BEAUTIFUL MATH
A BEAUTIFUL MATH
FOR A CODE
T O M S I E G F R I E D
Joseph Henry Press • 500 Fifth Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001
The Joseph Henry Press, an imprint of the National Academies Press, was
created with the goal of making books on science, technology, and health
more widely available to professionals and the public. Joseph Henry was one of
the founders of the National Academy of Sciences and a leader in early Ameri-
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
volume are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Academy of Sciences or its affiliated institutions.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Siegfried, Tom, 1950-
A beautiful math : John Nash, game theory, and the modern quest for a code
of nature / Tom Siegfried. — 1st ed.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-10192-1 (hardback) — ISBN 0-309-65928-0 (pdfs) 1.
Game theory. I. Title.
Copyright 2006 by Tom Siegfried. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Shortly after 9/11, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Gusev pro-
posed an explanation for the origin of the name Al Qaeda. He
suggested that the terrorist organization took its name from Isaac
Asimov’s famous 1950s science fiction novels known as the Foun-
dation Trilogy. After all, he reasoned, the Arabic word “qaeda”
means something like “base” or “foundation.” And the first novel in
Asimov’s trilogy, Foundation, apparently was titled “al-Qaida” in an
In Asimov’s books, “Foundation” referred to an organization
dedicated to salvaging a decaying galactic empire. The empire was
hopeless, destined to crumble into chaos, leaving civilization in
ruins for 30,000 years. Foreseeing the inevitability of the empire’s