In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World Hardcover – Mar 13 2012
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Stewart shares his enthusiasm as well as his knowledge in this tour of ground-breaking equations and the research they supported . An entertaining and illuminating collection of curious facts and histories suitable for random dipping-in or reading straight through.”
Stewart provides clear, cogent explanations of how the equations work without burdening the reader with cumbersome derivations . He gives a fascinating explanation of how Newton’s laws, when extended to three-body problems, are still used by NASA to calculate the best route from Earth to Mars and have laid the basis for chaos theory. Throughout, Stewart’s style is felicitous.”
Seemingly basic equations have enabled us to predict eclipses, engineer earthquake-proof buildings, and invent the refrigerator. In this lively volume, mathematician Ian Stewart delves into 17 equations that shape our daily existence, including those dreamed up by the likes of Einstein, Newton, and Erwin Schrödinger.”
Stewart is the finest living math popularizer a writer who can tackle eye-spraining mathematical topics approachably, and yet dazzle hard-core nerds with new and surprising information. It is hard not to get your money’s worth from him, and in a book like this he is at his best because of the very wide ground covered.”
Stewart’s expertise and his well-developed style (enhanced by a nice sense of humor) make for enjoyable reading . [A] worthwhile and entertaining book, accessible to all readers. Recommended for anyone interested in the influence of mathematics on the development of science and on the emergence of our current technology-driven society.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
Stewart has managed to produce a remarkably readable, informative and entertaining volume on a subject about which few are as well informed as they would like to be.”
New York Journal of Books
Stewart is a genius in the way he conveys his excitement and sense of wonder . He has that valuable grasp of not only what it takes to make equations interesting, but also to make science cool.”
Steve Mirsky, Scientific American
[Stewart] takes the reader on an engaging tour of vital math for a modern world . I highly recommend Stewart’s wonderfully accessible book.”
In Pursuit of the Unknown is an interesting and highly entertaining book. It would make a great gift for a bright high school grandchild who has expressed interest in a technical life, or for a physicist’s own secret reading.”
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Top Customer Reviews
The author writes very clearly and in a friendly, lively and engaging style. In some sections the author seems to assume very little or no pertinent knowledge on the part of the reader and as a result is very careful and detailed in his explanations, e.g., logarithms, calculus. In other cases, the discussions are much more challenging, and although new terms are briefly defined, the discussions may still result in some head scratching, e.g., quantum mechanics, Black-Scholes equation. Consequently, it is difficult to determine at what population this book is aimed. Science buffs may be bored by some of the more elementary discussions but find themselves more challenged by the topics on which they know very little. On the other hand, a younger (or less-informed) reader may learn quite a bit from the elementary discussions but get lost in some of the other sections.
Overall, I think that it is safe to say that this book has something for everyone. Although I did find some sections rather challenging, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Each chapter begins with its equation written down with each of its terms labeled as to what it means. The math of the equation is explained in a way hopefully clear to someone willing to think, whose math knowledge is at least of a high school level. Of course, if one fails to completely understand the mathematical explication, it doesn't really matter. For one can proceed to the historical significance of the equation, not only at the time of its emergence, but throughout subsequent history up to the present so that one can see its current relevance. This is essentially not a math book. The math is there to help make the history come alive.
The equations are presented in chronological order, more or less, so that the history of later equations can be enriched by what came before. The book is original because it goes beyond the usual kind of history of math, physics and engineering to show in a deeper and richer way how these subjects permeate our civilization and our culture.
My own background is in theoretical physics and I am a history buff. Interestingly, I learned things by reading this book. The author is clearly an active researcher in math and physics and throws in some provocative ideas, especially in talking about dark matter and energy.
Why did I give the book only four stars? Because I think a 5 star book should not only be a great read, but an absolute masterpiece. This book falls a little short of that.