"A passionate plea against the use of formal mathematical reasoning as a method for solving mankind's problems. . . . An antidote to the Cartesian view that mathematical and scientific knowledge will suffice to solve the central problems of human existence." — The New York Times
"These cogitations can and should be read by every literate person." — Science Books and Films
"A warning against being seduced or intimidated by mathematics into accepting bad science, bad policies, and bad personal decisions." — Philadelphia Inquirer
Rationalist philosopher and mathematician René Descartes visualized a world unified by mathematics, in which all intellectual issues could be resolved rationally by local computation. This series of provocative essays takes a modern look at the seventeenth-century thinker's dream, examining the physical and intellectual influences of mathematics on society, particularly in light of technological advances. These essays survey the conditions of civilization that elicit the application of mathematic principles; the effectiveness of these applications; situations in which the applications are beneficial, dangerous, or irrelevant; and how applied mathematics constrain lives and transform perceptions of reality. Highly suitable for browsing, the essays require different levels of mathematical knowledge that range from popular to professional.
Philip J. Davisis Professor Emeritus, Division of Applied Mathematics, Brown University. Reuben Hershis Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
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Reflections on mathematical thinking, from the transitional period of the 1980s when computers were changing the everyday practice of mathematics.