- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (January 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465032400
- ISBN-13: 978-0465032402
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mathematics of Life Reprint Edition
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"An ingenious overview of biology with emphasis on mathematical ideas--stimulating."―Kirkus
"Stewart flexes his mathematical muscles when he explores concepts like symmetrical viruses and puzzle-solving slime moulds. As always, he explains complicated mathematical ideas brilliantly."―New Scientist
"A timely account of why biologists and mathematicians are hooking up at last.... Stewart is Britain's most brilliant and prolific populariser of mathematics.... Mathematics of Life is dense with information, written with Stewart's characteristic lightness of touch and will please the dedicated maths reader.... [T]he book is a testament to the versatility of maths and how it is shaping our understanding of the world."―The Guardian
"It is difficult to find many biologists who enjoy math, or vice versa, but British number cruncher Ian Stewart successfully crosses over. Here he argues that solving some of the biggest scientific mysteries, including life's origins and prevalence in the universe, hinges on a union of these fields. He skillfully recasts the history of biology within a mathematical context...then applies his left-brained perspective to the hot new field of astrobiology. Bio majors: Try the book, then bite the bullet and enroll in Math 101."―Discover
"Though a complete understanding of how mathematics pries secrets out of nature requires long and rigorous study, Stewart conveys to general readers the fundamental axioms with lucidly accessible writing, supplemented with helpful charts and illustrations.... A rewarding adventure for the armchair scientist."―Booklist
"The Mathematics of Life is at its best in discussing the role that the discipline has played in our understanding of viruses.... Mr. Stewart's discussion of the intersection of viruses and geometry, and other topics, is absorbing."―Keith Devlin, Wall Street Journal
"Stewart revels in intellectual wanderlust, taking us from explanations of why Fibonnaci's sequence shows up so often in nature to rather in-depth treatments of evolutionary theory to number-crunching the possibilities of life on other planets.... Stewart is great at communicating wonder, but it's often his skepticism that makes The Mathematics of Lifesuch an enjoyable read-you get the sense that as a man who fully grasps numbers, he doesn't take kindly to how frequently they are abused in mainstream treatments of science."―Boston Globe
"In this engaging overview, a mathematician describes how the field of biomathematics is answering key questions about the natural world and the origins of life."―Science News
About the Author
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If I wouldn't have read the cover before reading the book, I would have thought I was reading a book on the subject of evolution. Essentially, Steward discusses, not only biology, but the evolutionary process and how mathematics is becoming more and more important in understanding the nature of these things.
Steward seems to have a very good grasp of biological concepts and evolutionary theory. In this book, you will get lessons on biology and evolutionary concepts which I found very helpful, and necessary, to the understanding of how mathematics relates to these things.
Most of the material in the first third of the book is about biology. As he states in the preface "the book starts from the everyday human level, and follows the historical path that led biologists to focus ever more sharply on the microscopic structure of living creatures, culminating in DNA ..." He describes five revolutions in biology: invention of the microscope, classification of life on earth, theory of evolution, discovery of the gene, discovery of the structure of DNA. The sixth revolution is mathematics role in biology, and this is what he presents in this book.
I really enjoyed the discussion in chapter four about the Fibonacci and Lucas sequences, the golden ratio and the golden angle and how these relate to things in nature such as the petals on a flower, the seeds on a sunflower, and the layout of leaves on the stems of plants. There is a discussion of embryological concepts, meiosis, mitosis, and how these function in the eukaryotic cell. The book also covers genes and what Steward calls the "molecule of life" - DNA. In chapter ten we learn about viruses and the fourth dimension, where an interesting application of mathematics to the study of viruses is presented.
I found chapter sixteen interesting where the plankton paradox is discussed. The principle of competitive exclusion states that the number of species in any environment should be no more the available niches or ways to make a living. With plankton, the niches are few, yet there is a large diversity. Here we are introduced to logistic equations, dynamical systems and a property called chaos. Cool stuff. I must read more about this in the future.
Enough with what I found interesting - I could go on. Let me conclude by saying that if you have an interest in biology or evolution and want to see how mathematics relates to these things, you must read this book.
The topics the author explores are extremely varied. He tackles the tangible and visible- for example the mechanics driving sunflower pattern formation to the movement of limbs in animal movement. He also explores the very microbiology and considers mendelian genetics and knots at the molecular level and protein folding. The author also looks at biology from above and considers game theory in evolution, all the way to analyzing whats needed for life to exist and the conditions that are necessary and sufficient.
This work touches the tip of an iceburg of applications of math to biology, both in subject matter and within the subjects explored. The author does an excellent job of giving an overview of complicated ideas in understandable terms- the author's book was recently reviewed in the American Mathematical Society and the math of what the author goes through can be very challenging. I enjoyed reading it with my only criticism is the organization and flow could be better. The book does reasonably convey the authors conclusions that the next stage for biology will be more math heavy but the chapters dont really flow from one to the next, they are all essentially cases that the author then uses as aggregate evidence of the influence of math in life science. All in all it is an interesting and readable book, some aspects are complicated and a bit difficult to understand and follow, but given the complexity of the underlying material the author does an excellent job.
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