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The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinityby Steven Strogatz
Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating guided tour of the complex, fast-moving, and influential world of algorithms—what they are, why theyre such powerful predictors of human behavior, and where theyre headed next.
Algorithms exert an extraordinary level of influence on our everyday lives - from dating websites and financial trading floors, through to online retailing and internet searches - Google's search algorithm is now a more closely guarded commercial secret than the recipe for Coca-Cola. Algorithms follow a series of instructions to solve a problem and will include a strategy to produce the best outcome possible from the options and permutations available. Used by scientists for many years and applied in a very specialized way they are now increasingly employed to process the vast amounts of data being generated, in investment banks, in the movie industry where they are used to predict success or failure at the box office and by social scientists and policy makers.
What if everything in life could be reduced to a simple formula? What if numbers were able to tell us which partners we were best matched with not just in terms of attractiveness, but for a long-term committed marriage? Or if they could say which films would be the biggest hits at the box office, and what changes could be made to those films to make them even more successful? Or even who is likely to commit certain crimes, and when? This may sound like the world of science fiction, but in fact it is just the tip of the iceberg in a world that is increasingly ruled by complex algorithms and neural networks.
In The Formula, Luke Dormehl takes readers inside the world of numbers, asking how we came to believe in the all-conquering power of algorithms; introducing the mathematicians, artificial intelligence experts and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are shaping this brave new world, and ultimately asking how we survive in an era where numbers can sometimes seem to create as many problems as they solve.
"Even the most math-phobic readers might forget their dread after just a few pages of Strogatz's (The Calculus of Friendship) latest. The author, a Cornell professor of applied mathematics, begins with arithmetic, by way of Sesame Street, then explores algebra, geometry, and, finally, the wonders of calculus — all done cheerfully, with many a wry turn of phrase. From addition and subtraction, with a glimpse into negative numbers and 'the black art of borrowing,' it's a quick step into the hardcore detective work of algebra's search for the unknown x, with algorithms like the quadratic equation, 'the Rodney Dangerfield of algebra' ('it don't get no respect'). Strogatz rhapsodizes over geometry, which he sees as a marriage of logic and intuition that teaches how to build arguments, step by rigorous step, and geometry's 'loosey-goosey' offshoot, topology. Brisk chapters on prime numbers, basic statistics, and probability are all enlightening without being intimidating. Most impressive is Strogatz's coverage of calculus, the math used to figure out everything from how fast epidemics spread to the trajectory of a curveball. Readers will appreciate this lighthearted and thoroughly entertaining book. Illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, showing how math intersects withand#160;philosophy, science, art, business, current events, and everyday life, by an acclaimed science communicator and regular contributor to the New York Times.
An account of child genius Taylor Wilsonand#8217;s successful quest to build his own nuclear reactor at the age of fourteen, and an exploration of how gifted children can be nurtured to do extraordinary things.
From the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author of Woman, a playful, passionate guide to the science all around us
With the singular intelligence and exuberance that made Woman an international sensation, Natalie Angier takes us on a whirligig tour of the scientific canon. She draws on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and on her own work as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times to create a thoroughly entertaining guide to scientific literacy. Angier's gifts are on full display in The Canon, an ebullient celebration of science that stands to become a classic.
The Canon is vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the great issues of our time — from stem cells and bird flu to evolution and global warming. And it's for every parent who has ever panicked when a child asked how the earth was formed or what electricity is. Angier's sparkling prose and memorable metaphors bring the science to life, reigniting our own childhood delight in discovering how the world works. "Of course you should know about science," writes Angier, "for the same reason Dr. Seuss counsels his readers to sing with a Ying or play Ring the Gack: These things are fun and fun is good."
The Canon is a joyride through the major scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Along the way, we learn what is actually happening when our ice cream melts or our coffee gets cold, what our liver cells do when we eat a caramel, why the horse is an example of evolution at work, and how we're all really made of stardust. It's Lewis Carroll meets Lewis Thomas — a book that will enrapture, inspire, and enlighten.
How an American teenager became the youngest person ever to build a working nuclear fusion reactorand#160;
By the age of nine, Taylor Wilson had mastered the science of rocket propulsion. At eleven, his grandmotherandrsquo;s cancer diagnosis drove him to investigate new ways to produce medical isotopes. And by fourteen, Wilson had built a 500-million-degree reactor and become the youngest person in history to achieve nuclear fusion. How could someone so young achieve so much, and what can Wilsonandrsquo;s story teach parents and teachers about how to support high-achieving kids?
In The Boy Who Played with Fusion, science journalist Tom Clynes narrates Taylor Wilsonandrsquo;s extraordinary journeyandmdash;from his Arkansas home where his parents fully supported his intellectual passions, to a unique Reno, Nevada, public high school just for academic superstars, to the present, when now nineteen-year-old Wilson is winning international science competitions with devices designed to prevent terrorists from shipping radioactive material into the country. Along the way, Clynes reveals how our education system shortchanges gifted students, and what we can do to fix it.
About the Author
STEVEN STROGATZandnbsp;is a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the worldand#8217;s most highly cited mathematicians, he has been a frequent guest on National Public Radioand#8217;s RadioLab. He is the author of Sync and The Calculus of Friendship, the story of his thirty-year correspondence with his high school math teacher.
Table of Contents
From Fish to Infinityand#8195;3
An introduction to numbers, pointing out their upsides (theyand#8217;re efficient) as well as their downsides (theyand#8217;re ethereal)
Treating numbers concretelyand#8212;think rocksand#8212;can make calculations less baffling.
The Enemy of My Enemyand#8195;15
The disturbing concept of subtraction, and how we deal with the fact that negative numbers seem so .and#160;.and#160;. negative
When you buy jeans on sale, do you save more money if the clerk applies the discount after the tax, or before?
Division and Its Discontentsand#8195;29
Helping Verizon grasp the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents
Location, Location, Locationand#8195;35
How the place-value system for writing numbers brought arithmetic to the masses
The Joy of xand#8195;45
Arithmetic becomes algebra when we begin working with unknowns and formulas.
Finding Your Rootsand#8195;51
Complex numbers, a hybrid of the imaginary and the real, are the pinnacle of number systems.
My Tub Runneth Overand#8195;59
Turning peril to pleasure in word problems
Working Your Quadsand#8195;67
The quadratic formula may never win any beauty contests, but the ideas behind it are ravishing.
In math, the function of functions is to transform.
Geometry, intuition, and the long road from Pythagoras to Einstein
Something from Nothingand#8195;93
Like any other creative act, constructing a proof begins with inspiration.
The Conic Conspiracyand#8195;101
The uncanny similarities between parabolas and ellipses suggest hidden forces at work.
Sine Qua Nonand#8195;113
Sine waves everywhere, from Ferris wheels to zebra stripes
Take It to the Limitand#8195;121
Archimedes recognized the power of the infinite and in the process laid the groundwork for calculus.
Change We Can Believe Inand#8195;131
Differential calculus can show you the best path from A to B, and Michael Jordanand#8217;s dunks help explain why.
It Slices, It Dicesand#8195;139
The lasting legacy of integral calculus is a Veg-O-Matic view of the universe.
All about eand#8195;147
How many people should you date before settling down? Your grandmother knowsand#8212;and so does the number e.
Loves Me, Loves Me Notand#8195;155
Differential equations made sense of planetary motion. But the course of true love? Now thatand#8217;s confusing.
Step Into the Lightand#8195;161
A light beam is a pas de deux of electric and magnetic fields, and vector calculus is its choreographer.
The New Normaland#8195;175
Bell curves are out. Fat tails are in.
The improbable thrills of probability theory
Untangling the Weband#8195;191
How Google solved the Zen riddle of Internet search using linear algebra
The Loneliest Numbersand#8195;201
Prime numbers, solitary and inscrutable, space themselves apart in mysterious ways.
Group theory, one of the most versatile parts of math, bridges art and science.
Twist and Shoutand#8195;219
Playing with Mand#246;bius strips and music boxes, and a better way to cut a bagel
Differential geometry reveals the shortest route between two points on a globe or any other curved surface.
Why calculus, once so smug and cocky, had to put itself on the couch
The Hilbert Hoteland#8195;249
An exploration of infinity as this book, not being infinite, comes to an end
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