In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the great numbers that define our world. Some numbers, like the speed of light and absolute zero, are well known to the general public. Others, such as Boltzmann's constant and the Chandrasekhar limit, are known only to those with a deep knowledge of science. But these numbers do far more than the average person might dare to imagine: they tell us how this world began, the way we were and the way we are, and what the future holds. Stein reveals the manner in which certain cosmic numbers came to light, the dramatis personae involved, and cutting-edge developments associated with these numbers. Many are the cornerstones of grand discoveries and theories. They represent landmarks in the history of intellectual achievement. And the stories of these numbers offer a novel understanding of physics, chemistry, and astronomy.
Much more than a gee-whiz collection, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important--both to scientists and to the rest of us.
|Edition description:||First Trade Paper Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.75(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 18 Years|
About the Author
James D. Stein is a past member of the Institute of Advanced Studies and is currently a Professor of Mathematics at California State University (Long Beach). His list of publications is extensive and includes: How to Shoot from the Hip Without Getting Shot in the Foot (with Herbert L. Stone and Charles V. Harlow); How Math Explains the World (a Scientific American Book Club selection); The Right Decision (also a Scientific American Book Club selection); and How Math Can Save Your Life. He has been a guest blogger for Psychology Today and his work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times.
Table of Contents
1 The Gravitational Constant 1
2 The Speed Of Light 15
3 The Ideal Gas Constant 29
4 Absolute Zero 43
5 Avogadro's Number 57
6 Electricity And The Proportionality Constant 71
7 The Boltzmann Constant 85
8 The Planck Constant 103
9 The Schwarzschild Radius 117
10 The Efficiency Of Hydrogen Fusion 133
11 The Chandrasekhar Limit 149
12 The Hubble Constant 167
13 Omega 185
Codata Note 203
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I highly recommend this book it to scientists looking to learn more about the human side of the individuals who contributed to understanding and quantifying the 13 ‘Cosmic Numbers’ described in these 13 chapters. Prof. Stein is an excellent writer, combining historical and scientific fact with well argued opinions and a few tangents that make it a fun text. However, I do have two basic issues with ‘Cosmic Numbers’, and one question. My first issue is that there are no figures to illustrate any of the concepts or experiments described in the text. This in turn made it difficult to envision (for example) the torsion balance used by Henry Cavendish to measure the density of the Earth (page 10, and from this, the magnitude of the Gravitational Constant, G), how a beam of light moving on a wall can exceed the speed of light (page 25), or the geometry behind Prof. Stein’s explanation of time dilation (page 176). My second issue was the absence of units in the numerical expressions presented to quantify the magnitude of various phenomenon or values. Writing out these expressions as is done in standard undergraduate workbooks (that is, with units after each number and separating the formulas from the main text) would greatly enhance the ease of reading. Finally, my question is, who is the intended audience? The book jumps in depth from showing step by step algebraic manipulations (page 87) to assuming the reader is familiar with Euler’s number and the functional notation of calculus, e.g., f(r) = er (all within Chapter 8, The Planck Constant). I believe this book would best be appreciated by persons with a technical background, or (better yet) by budding scientists/engineers as a way to learn about the amazing people behind these cosmic numbers.