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A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Natureby Tom Siegfried
Synopses & Reviews
Millions have seen the movie and thousands have read the book but few have fully appreciated the mathematics developed by John Nash's beautiful mind. Today Nash's beautiful math has become a universal language for research in the social sciences and has infiltrated the realms of evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and even quantum physics. John Nash won the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics for pioneering research published in the 1950s on a new branch of mathematics known as game theory. At the time of Nash's early work, game theory was briefly popular among some mathematicians and Cold War analysts. But it remained obscure until the 1970s when evolutionary biologists began applying it to their work. In the 1980s economists began to embrace game theory. Since then it has found an ever expanding repertoire of applications among a wide range of scientific disciplines.
Today neuroscientists peer into game players brains, anthropologists play games with people from primitive cultures, biologists use games to explain the evolution of human language, and mathematicians exploit games to better understand social networks. A common thread connecting much of this research is its relevance to the ancient quest for a science of human social behavior, or a Code of Nature, in the spirit of the fictional science of psychohistory described in the famous Foundation novels by the late Isaac Asimov. In A Beautiful Math, acclaimed science writer Tom Siegfried describes how game theory links the life sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences in a way that may bring Asimov s dream closer to reality.
"The title capitalizes on the popularity of the Oscar-winning movie about Nobel Prize — winning mathematician John Nash. But this is a serious and adroit look at a branch of mathematics, influenced by Nash's work, that is steadily sending tendrils into nearly every area of science. It may even, says science journalist Siegfried, result in a mathematical description of nature of the sort imagined and called 'psychohistory' by Isaac Asimov in his Foundation trilogy. Siegfried is talking about game theory, which was originally conceived as a model of economics predicting what rational people would do when competing for monetary gain. But with the help of the 'Nash equilibrium,' it has since evolved into a system that helps describe social networking, physics, evolution and more. In guiding the reader through the outgrowths of game theory, Siegfried steps nimbly around anything that would bog down the narrative, crisply painting the key concepts and framing them with pop culture, biographies of and conversations with giants in the field, and reacting ('Now, you have to admit, that's a little strange') to each new discovery. His clear and easy voice makes the content effortless and a pleasure to read. (Oct. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Immortalized in the film "A Beautiful Mind," John Nash is best known for his beautiful math, which has become a universal language for research in the social sciences. Now an acclaimed science writer describes how Nash's game theory links the life sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences.
A common thread connecting much of this research is its relevance to the ancient quest for a science of human social behavior, or Code of Nature, and in the spirit of the fictional science of psychohistory described in the famous "Foundation" novels by the late Isaac Asimov. In "A Beautiful Math", acclaimed science writer Tom Siegfried describes how game theory links the life sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences in a way that may bring Asimov dream closer to reality.
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