Synopses & Reviews
Although we seldom think of it, our lives are played out in a world of numbers. Such common activities as throwing baseballs, skipping rope, growing flowers, playing football, measuring savings accounts, and many others are inherently mathematical. So are more speculative problems that are simply fun to ponder in themselves--such as the best way to score Olympic events.
Here Robert Banks presents a wide range of musings, both practical and entertaining, that have intrigued him and others: How tall can one grow? Why do we get stuck in traffic? Which football player would have a better chance of breaking away--a small, speedy wide receiver or a huge, slow linebacker? Can California water shortages be alleviated by towing icebergs from Antarctica? What is the fastest the 100-meter dash will ever be run?
The book's twenty-four concise chapters, each centered on a real-world phenomenon, are presented in an informal and engaging manner. Banks shows how math and simple reasoning together may produce elegant models that explain everything from the federal debt to the proper technique for ski-jumping.
This book, which requires of its readers only a basic understanding of high school or college math, is for anyone fascinated by the workings of mathematics in our everyday lives, as well as its applications to what may be imagined. All will be rewarded with a myriad of interesting problems and the know-how to solve them.
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"Robert Banks's study of everyday phenomena is infused with infectious enthusiasm."--Publishers Weekly
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"There is something here for every mathematically inclined reader. The aerodynamics of balls in sport, the spread of diseases, traffic flow, the effect of meteor impacts--[Banks] deals with these and much more in engaging, well-judged detail."--Robert Matthews, New Scientist
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"A fabulous exposition of adventures in applied mathematics. It's already one of my favourite books. It's so good I find it hard to lay aside."--B. L. Henry, Physicist
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One of Choice?s Outstanding Academic Titles for 1999
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"This book provides an entertaining look at some simple and interesting mathematical models for a range of topics. . . . The choice of modeling subjects is imaginative. . . . Every chapter is interesting, and the self-contained nature of each section of the book means that one can happily 'dip in and out' without losing the thread of the text."--Alistair Fitt, London Mathematical Society Newsletter
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One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1999
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"The book stands out because the examples are all treated as real-life examples with real data, and taking into account all the complications that are usually left out in academic examples: the earth is not a perfect sphere, a baseball is rough because of its stitches, it is thrown with spin, there is resistance of the air, and the resistance differs with the height, etc. Even though, there are a lot of formulas and numbers, the reading is pleasant and smooth."--A. Bultheel, European Mathematical Society
About the Author
Robert B. Banks (1922-2002) was Professor of Engineering at Northwestern University and Dean of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He served with the Ford Foundation in Mexico City and with the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. He won numerous national and international honors, including being named Commander of the Order of the White Elephant by the King of Thailand and Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the government of France. He is the author of Slicing Pizzas, Racing Turtles, and Further Adventures in Applied Mathematics (Princeton).
Table of Contents
Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Chapter 1 Units and Dimensions and Mach Numbers 3
Chapter 2 Alligator Eggs and the Federal Debt 15
Chapter 3 Controlling Growth and Perceiving Spread 24
Chapter 4 Little Things Falling from the Sky 31
Chapter 5 Big Things Falling from the Sky 42
Chapter 6 Towing and Melting Enormous Icebergs: Part I 54
Chapter 7 Towing and Melting Enormous Icebergs: Part II 68
Chapter 8 A Better Way to Score the Olympics 79
Chapter 9 How to Calculate the Economic Energy of a Nation 93
Chapter 10 How to Start Football Games, and Other Probably Good Ideas 10
Chapter 11 Gigantic Numbers and Extreme Exponents 121
Chapter 12 Ups and Downs of Professional Football 133
Chapter 13 A Tower, a Bridge, and a Beautiful Arch 150
Chapter 14 Jumping Ropes and Wind Turbines 168
Chapter 15 The Crisis of the Deficit: Gompertz to the Rescue 179
Chapter 16 How to Reduce the Population with Differential Equations 189
Chapter 17 Shot Puts, Basketballs, and Water Fountains 201
Chapter 18 Balls and Strikes and Home Runs 219
Chapter 19 Hooks and Slices and Holes in One 234
Chapter 20 Happy Landings in the Snow 243
Chapter 21 Water Waves and Falling Dominoes 254
Chapter 22 Something Shocking about Highway Traffic 270
Chapter 23 How Tall Will I Grow? 283
Chapter 24 How Fast Can Runners Run? 300
References 321
Index 327