Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers That Define Our Universe 1st Edition, Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465021987
ISBN-10: 0465021980
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Editorial Reviews


“Cheerful but not dumbed-down…  Every educated reader should know what these numbers mean. Stein casts his net widely, delivering an entertaining history of each, often wandering into areas of science only distantly related but no less worthwhile.”

“In the explanatory power of fundamental numbers, Stein discerns the fundamental harmonies that emerge in the most profound science. Stein teases these harmonies out of their formulas and then weaves them into a broader conceptual fabric…By turns amusing and poignant, Stein’s engaging style eases general readers past their fears of scientific math, while also guiding them into a deeper appreciation of the stubborn human complexities of the scientists behind that mat…Numbers become portals to mind-expanding questions.”
The Boston Globe
“A brisk, fun ride…Stein is good at extracting drama from the brilliant minds and experiments that fill his book, and it’s impossible to read it without gaping in awe at just how much science got done in the days prior to statistical analysis software and multicore processors.”
New Scientist
“Amid seemingly endless strings of equations, a handful of numbers stand out.  These are the physical constants, numbers that hold their true value in any situation—the unbreakable scaffolding of reality.  In Cosmic Numbers, mathematician James Stein offers a tour of some of these constants…These are numbers we take for granted today, but Stein stresses the lengths people went to determine them.  There is plenty of interesting background too.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“The author cajoles the reader to enjoy the spirit of discovery with him, keeping a light style of narrative. Nevertheless, Stein does not shy away from introducing mathematical formulae as well as precise descriptions of the science involved, sometimes in a rather condensed form. The nonscientific reader need not be intimidated by these….This book will appeal to a wide audience of readers who are curious to know more about the discovery of the laws that govern our universe….[A]n enjoyable and informative read.”
Ian Stewart, author of The Mathematics of Life
“A vivid exploration of today’s science, from the forces that keep our planet in orbit to the origin of the atoms that form our bodies. Clear and concise, easy to read, and enormously informative, Cosmic Numbers relates the stories behind some of the most important numbers in science—where they came from, what they tell us, and how they changed the way we view our world.”
John L. Casti, Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Vienna, and author of Mood Matters, Paradigms Lost, Five Golden Rules, and The Cambridge Quintet
“Most people use numbers like 1, 2, 3 . . . to count. But the numbers that really count are the ones described in this book! They tell us why we see the universe we do and not see something else. After reading this very enlightening, informative and entertaining book, you’ll see why some numbers are just a bit more equal than others.”
Leonard Wapner, El Camino College
“We memorized them in our high school science classes.  Now Jim Stein teaches us to appreciate nature’s constants by giving us the stories and the personalities behind their discovery. It’s an enjoyable and thought provoking read.”
Paul J. Nahin, author of Number-Crunching and An Imaginary Tale
“It would seem trivially obvious to say all numbers are not equal. Some numbers are especially important, however, not because of mathematics but because of physics. This book discusses the history and ‘use’ of thirteen such numbers, which if only slightly different would make the world we live in a vastly different place—or simply not even possible. After reading James Stein’s Cosmic Numbers you’ll understand why existence itself is ‘in the numbers.’”

The Guardian (UK):
“[Cosmic Numbers] is a story of man’s lust for measurement… and also a persuasive explanation of why it is worth measuring such apparently arcane phenomena very exactly.”

Wall Street Journal
“[O]ur understanding of the universe depends on assuming that constants stay constant. Which is why the slew of digits discussed in James D. Stein’s Cosmic Numbers are so important. These numerical values define reality. . . . [E]ach constant is more than a numerical value. It unpacks to provide a story, giving historical context to what might otherwise be a dry piece of physics. . . . In a book about numbers, of course, readers getting lost in thickets of math is always a danger—call it a constant. But Mr. Stein succeeds in guiding us quickly back to the matters of most interest in his rewarding essays on the foundations of the universe.”


San Francisco Book Review
“Great fun ….Stein is a lively teller of this exacting tale of scientific discovery.”



“Stein writes in a manner readily accessible to the uninitiated and liberally sprinkles the book with humor… Rewards for [readers] lie in the fascinating details about the lives of some of the scientists discussed that are not generally known.”

About the Author

James D. Stein received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a professor of mathematics at the California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of three previous books: How Math Explains the World, The Right Decision, and How Math Can Save Your Life. He lives in Redondo Beach, California, with his wife.

Product details

  • File Size: 1666 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Publication Date: September 6, 2011
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FFPMY4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,611 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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