- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (March 13, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465029736
- ISBN-13: 978-0465029730
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 77 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World 1st Edition
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Stewart shares his enthusiasm as well as his knowledge in this tour of ground-breaking equations and the research they supported . An entertaining and illuminating collection of curious facts and histories suitable for random dipping-in or reading straight through.”
Stewart provides clear, cogent explanations of how the equations work without burdening the reader with cumbersome derivations . He gives a fascinating explanation of how Newton’s laws, when extended to three-body problems, are still used by NASA to calculate the best route from Earth to Mars and have laid the basis for chaos theory. Throughout, Stewart’s style is felicitous.”
Seemingly basic equations have enabled us to predict eclipses, engineer earthquake-proof buildings, and invent the refrigerator. In this lively volume, mathematician Ian Stewart delves into 17 equations that shape our daily existence, including those dreamed up by the likes of Einstein, Newton, and Erwin Schrödinger.”
Stewart is the finest living math popularizer a writer who can tackle eye-spraining mathematical topics approachably, and yet dazzle hard-core nerds with new and surprising information. It is hard not to get your money’s worth from him, and in a book like this he is at his best because of the very wide ground covered.”
Stewart’s expertise and his well-developed style (enhanced by a nice sense of humor) make for enjoyable reading . [A] worthwhile and entertaining book, accessible to all readers. Recommended for anyone interested in the influence of mathematics on the development of science and on the emergence of our current technology-driven society.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
Stewart has managed to produce a remarkably readable, informative and entertaining volume on a subject about which few are as well informed as they would like to be.”
New York Journal of Books
Stewart is a genius in the way he conveys his excitement and sense of wonder . He has that valuable grasp of not only what it takes to make equations interesting, but also to make science cool.”
Steve Mirsky, Scientific American
[Stewart] takes the reader on an engaging tour of vital math for a modern world . I highly recommend Stewart’s wonderfully accessible book.”
In Pursuit of the Unknown is an interesting and highly entertaining book. It would make a great gift for a bright high school grandchild who has expressed interest in a technical life, or for a physicist’s own secret reading.”
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The equations covered starts with Pythagoras's Theorom, then discusses logarithms, the limit equation in calculus, newtons gravity, the properties of i, eulers formula for topology, the normal distribution, the wave equation, the fourier transform, navier-stokes, maxwell's equations, the second law of thermodynamics, E=MC^2, schrodingers equation, shannon's theorem in information theory, basic chaos from dynamical systems and the black and scholes equations.
From the first chapter the author brings illumination to his topics combining intuition with his insight. For example in Pythagoras's Theorem, the author discusses its properties, how it was interpreted (as relation of areas, as relation of triange etc) to what it tells us about geometry. Most of us are familiar with the equation but some subtle but very important details are provided and pondered- with a result that creates a certain awe.
The book is filled with insight and description that can be understood by the casual reader. This is not a math book, some of the chapters have some relatively sophisticated mathematical ideas, but they are peripheral rather than core to the chapter. The book gives a sense of history and describes much of the pratical significance of the math the author introduces. I highly recommend this to all interested in how math affects the real world in application as well as to those just interested in the history some of our most important equations.
I do not recommend one speed-read this book, but rather cover one equation at a sitting while reading in a contemplative manner.
Professor Stewart gives ample reasons for anticipation of future improvements or changes in mathematical descriptions of the world(s) in which we live. For example, he challenges the reader with the exciting possibility of how dark matter may change our understanding of the universe: he does this best in the final chapter, "Where Next?" The potential for string theory, general universal theory, and the Higgs Boson creates an atmosphere of anticipation and the need to learn more - that is a major credit to the author!
Structurally speaking, this book is constructed so that each equation or chapter is virtually independent of the preceding chapter. This is very convenient, allowing the reader to select which equation to study, without the necessity of thumbing back to prior chapters to clarify some reference.
I had one surprising disappointment on accuracy or proof reading, when the author, on page 40, states that the note, middle C, is 440 cycles per second. This dismayed me, because it made me doubt many other bits of referenced information, which makes this book so interesting. This mistake was not repeated in the chapter on wave motion - which restored my confidence and caused me to forgive this one error, however blatant. All in all, this is a commendable book, one which spurs the imagination, and increases the understanding of mathematical equations.
I recommend this book to all students of mathematics and those responsible for teaching the subject to others.
Each chapter begins with its equation written down with each of its terms labeled as to what it means. The math of the equation is explained in a way hopefully clear to someone willing to think, whose math knowledge is at least of a high school level. Of course, if one fails to completely understand the mathematical explication, it doesn't really matter. For one can proceed to the historical significance of the equation, not only at the time of its emergence, but throughout subsequent history up to the present so that one can see its current relevance. This is essentially not a math book. The math is there to help make the history come alive.
The equations are presented in chronological order, more or less, so that the history of later equations can be enriched by what came before. The book is original because it goes beyond the usual kind of history of math, physics and engineering to show in a deeper and richer way how these subjects permeate our civilization and our culture.
My own background is in theoretical physics and I am a history buff. Interestingly, I learned things by reading this book. The author is clearly an active researcher in math and physics and throws in some provocative ideas, especially in talking about dark matter and energy.
Why did I give the book only four stars? Because I think a 5 star book should not only be a great read, but an absolute masterpiece. This book falls a little short of that.