Nature's Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematical Imagination

Nature's Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematical Imagination

by Ian Stewart
     
 

Mathematics is, Ian Stewart admits, totally unreal - an entirely mental construct. Furthermore, the complicated equations and lengthy proofs we usually identify as math are no more the essence of math than a musical score is a Beethoven symphony. Yet math is the best tool we have for understanding the world around us. By looking at the universe through mathematical… See more details below

Overview

Mathematics is, Ian Stewart admits, totally unreal - an entirely mental construct. Furthermore, the complicated equations and lengthy proofs we usually identify as math are no more the essence of math than a musical score is a Beethoven symphony. Yet math is the best tool we have for understanding the world around us. By looking at the universe through mathematical eyes, we have discovered a great secret: nature's patterns are clues to the deep regularities that govern the way the world works. Mathematics is to nature as Sherlock Holmes is to evidence. It can look at a single snowflake and deduce the atomic structure of ice crystals; it can start with a violin string and uncover the existence of radio waves. And mathematics still has the power to open our eyes to new and unsuspected regularities: the secret structure of a cloud or the hidden rhythms of the weather. Nature's Numbers will equip you with a mathematician's eyes. It will take you sight-seeing in a mathematical universe. And it will change the way you view your own world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Defining mathematics as a system of thought for recognizing and exploiting patterns, Scientific American math columnist Stewart takes readers on an exciting, lucid voyage of discovery as he investigates patterns of form, number, shape and movement in the world around us. His examples range from water dripping slowly from a tap to the symmetries of molecules, viruses and galaxies and from a snail's spiral shell to biological evolution and the dynamics of solar systems. Making forays into the history of mathematics and the role of mathematics in human culture, Stewart gives the reader an uncanny feel for the way mathematicians think and provides a succinct yet remarkably broad overview extending from the invention of numbers to unsolved problems that bedevil contemporary mathematicians and cosmologists. His elegant narrative concludes with a look at today's emerging sciences of chaos and complexity, which reveal that nature's seeming anarchy is bound by rules. Both novices and advanced students will find this an enlightening and rewarding exploration. QPBC triple main selection, Library of Science dual main selection, BOMC alternate. (Aug.)
Booknews
A readable investigation of mathematical patterns in nature for students and general readers, illustrating early discoveries, the purpose of mathematics, and concepts in chaos theory with examples from the natural world such as flower petals, animal markings, weather systems, and sand dunes. Includes b&w diagrams. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465072736
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
06/28/1995
Series:
Science Masters Series
Pages:
164
Product dimensions:
5.94(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.75(d)

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