Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating guided tour of the complex, fast-moving, and influential world of algorithmswhat 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.
In 2010, award-winning professor Steven Strogatz wrote a series for the New York Times
online called “The Elements of Math.” It was hugely popular: Each piece climbed the most emailed list and elicited hundreds of comments. Readers begged for more, and Strogatz has now delivered. In this fun, fast-paced book, he offers us all a second chance at math. Each short chapter of The Joy of X
provides an “Aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are helpful, and moving on to such topics as shapes, calculus, fat tails, and infinity. Strogatz explains the ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations. Assuming no knowledge, only curiosity, he shows how math connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture and current events. For example, did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Strogatz is the math teacher you wish youd had, and The Joy of X is the book youll want to give to all your smart and curious friends.
A world-class mathematician and regular contributor to the New York Times
hosts a delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, revealing how it connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture in ways we never imagined
Did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Believe it or not, math plays a crucial role in answering all of these questions and more.
Math underpins everything in the cosmos, including us, yet too few of us understand this universal language well enough to revel in its wisdom, its beauty and#8212; and its joy. This deeply enlightening, vastly entertaining volume translates math in a way that is at once intelligible and thrilling. Each trenchant chapter of The Joy ofand#160;x offers an and#8220;aha!and#8221; moment, starting with why numbers are so helpful, and progressing through the wondrous truths implicit in and#960;, the Pythagorean theorem, irrational numbers, fat tails, even the rigors and surprising charms of calculus. Showing why he has won awards as a professor at Cornell and garnered extensive praise for his articles about math for the New York Times, Strogatz presumes of his readers only curiosity and common sense. And he rewards them with clear, ingenious, and often funny explanations of the most vital and exciting principles of his discipline.
Whether you aced integral calculus or arenand#8217;t sure what an integer is, youand#8217;ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.
"Delightful . . . easily digestible chapters include plenty of helpful examples and illustrations. You'll never forget the Pythagorean theorem again!"and#8212;Scientific American
Many people take math in high school and promptly forget much of it. But math plays a part in all of our lives all of the time, whether we know it or not. In The Joy of x, Steven Strogatz expands on his hit New York Times series to explain the big ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations.
Whether he is illuminating how often you should flip your mattress to get the maximum lifespan from it, explaining just how Google searches the internet, or determining how many people you should date before settling down, Strogatz shows how math connects to every aspect of life. Discussing pop culture, medicine, law, philosophy, art, and business, Strogatz is the math teacher you wish youand#8217;d had. Whether you aced integral calculus or arenand#8217;t sure what an integer is, youand#8217;ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.
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.
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.
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.
About the Author
TOM CLYNES is a writer and photographer who covers the adventurous side of science, the environment, and education.andnbsp;He hasandnbsp;reported on Ebola outbreaks and eco-mercenaries in central Africa, climatologists working in Greenland, and arsenic-loving microbes in Californiaandrsquo;s Mono Lake.andnbsp;He was aandnbsp;contributing editor at National Geographic Adventure for over a decade, and now regularly writes for National Geographic, Menandrsquo;s Journal, and Popular Science, where he is a contributing editor. He has also contributed to GQ, Conservation Magazine, the Guardian, the Times of London, Bicycling, Backpacker, and the Washington Post. His magazine stories have appeared multiple times in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Travel Writing. He is alsoandnbsp;a Knight Wallace Journalism Fellow, an International Reporting Project Fellow, and a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Brookline, Vermont.
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