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The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told Through Equations

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Most popular books about science, and even about mathematics, tiptoe around equations as if they were something to be hidden from the reader's tender eyes. Dana Mackenzie starts from the opposite premise: He celebrates equations. No history of art would be complete without pictures. Why, then, should a history of mathematics--the universal language of science--keep the masterpieces of the subject hidden behind a veil?

The Universe in Zero Words tells the history of twenty-four great and beautiful equations that have shaped mathematics, science, and society--from the elementary (1+1=2) to the sophisticated (the Black-Scholes formula for financial derivatives), and from the famous (E=mc2) to the arcane (Hamilton's quaternion equations). Mackenzie, who has been called "a popular-science ace" by Booklist magazine, lucidly explains what each equation means, who discovered it (and how), and how it has affected our lives.

Illustrated in color throughout, the book tells the human and often-surprising stories behind the invention or discovery of the equations, from how a bad cigar changed the course of quantum mechanics to why whales (if they could communicate with us) would teach us a totally different concept of geometry. At the same time, the book shows why these equations have something timeless to say about the universe, and how they do it with an economy (zero words) that no other form of human expression can match.

The Universe in Zero Words is the ultimate introduction and guide to equations that have changed the world.

Synopsis:

"Demanding very little prior mathematical knowledge, this is one of the best popular histories of mathematics in recent years. Dana Mackenzie's prose is lively and easy to read, and his mix of historical background and personal biographies of the main characters is engaging."--Eli Maor, author of The Pythagorean Theorem: A 4,000-Year History and e: The Story of a Number

"Dana Mackenzie is a very good writer. I was constantly amazed at his ability to describe complicated mathematics in a few sentences in a way that the average reader--not the average mathematician or the average math major, but the average reader--can understand. This is a very entertaining book."--David S. Richeson, author of Euler's Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology

"[A] terrific book. . . . [A] brilliant history of mathematics as told through equations."--Dick Lipton, Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech

About the Author

Dana Mackenzie is a frequent contributor to Science, Discover, and New Scientist, and writes the biennial series Whats Happening in the Mathematical Sciences for the American Mathematical Society. In 2012, he received the prestigious Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. He has a PhD in mathematics from Princeton and was a mathematics professor for thirteen years before becoming a full-time writer.

Table of Contents

Preface 6

Introduction: The Abacist versus the Algorist 10

Part One: Equations of Antiquity 16

1. Why we believe in arithmetic: the world's simplest equation 20

2. Resisting a new concept: the discovery of zero 26

3. The square of the hypotenuse: the Pythagorean theorem 30

4. The circle game: the discovery of π 40

5. From Zeno's paradoxes to the idea of infinity 46

6. A matter of leverage: laws of levers 52

Part Two: Equations in the age of exploration 56

7. The stammerer's secret: Cardano's formula 60

8. Order in the heavens: Kepler's laws of planetary motion 68

9. Writing for eternity: Fermat's Last Theorem 74

10. An unexplored continent: the fundamental theorem of calculus 80

11. Of apples, legends . . . and comets: Newton's laws 90

12. The great explorer: Euler's theorems 96

Part Three: Equations in a promethean age 104

13. The new algebra: Hamilton and quaternions 108

14. Two shooting stars: group theory 114

15. The geometry of whales and ants: non-Euclidean geometry 122

16. In primes we trust: the prime number theorem 128

17. The idea of spectra: Fourier series 134

18. A god's-eye view of light: Maxwell's equations 142

Part Four: Equations in our own time 150

19. The photoelectric effect: quanta and relativity 154

20. From a bad cigar to Westminster Abbey: Dirac's formula 164

21. The empire-builder: the Chern-Gauss-Bonnet equation 174

22. A little bit infinite: the Continuum Hypothesis 182

23. Theories of chaos: Lorenz equations 194

24. Taming the tiger: the Black-Scholes equation 204

Conclusion: What of the future? 214

Acknowledgments 218

Bibliography 219

Index 222

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691160160
Author:
Mackenzie, Dana
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
MacKenzie, Dana
Subject:
History
Subject:
Mathematics
Subject:
Physics
Subject:
History of Science and Medicine, Philosophy of Science
Subject:
Popular science
Subject:
Mathematics -- History.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20130831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
26 color illus. 17 halftones. 12 line il
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
9.5 x 7 in

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The Universe in Zero Words: The Story of Mathematics as Told Through Equations Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 224 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691160160 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Demanding very little prior mathematical knowledge, this is one of the best popular histories of mathematics in recent years. Dana Mackenzie's prose is lively and easy to read, and his mix of historical background and personal biographies of the main characters is engaging."--Eli Maor, author of The Pythagorean Theorem: A 4,000-Year History and e: The Story of a Number

"Dana Mackenzie is a very good writer. I was constantly amazed at his ability to describe complicated mathematics in a few sentences in a way that the average reader--not the average mathematician or the average math major, but the average reader--can understand. This is a very entertaining book."--David S. Richeson, author of Euler's Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology

"[A] terrific book. . . . [A] brilliant history of mathematics as told through equations."--Dick Lipton, Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech

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