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A Mathematical Nature Walk
     

A Mathematical Nature Walk

5.0 1
by John A. Adam
 

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How heavy is that cloud? Why can you see farther in rain than in fog? Why are the droplets on that spider web spaced apart so evenly? If you have ever asked questions like these while outdoors, and wondered how you might figure out the answers, this is a book for you. An entertaining and informative collection of fascinating puzzles from the natural world around us

Overview

How heavy is that cloud? Why can you see farther in rain than in fog? Why are the droplets on that spider web spaced apart so evenly? If you have ever asked questions like these while outdoors, and wondered how you might figure out the answers, this is a book for you. An entertaining and informative collection of fascinating puzzles from the natural world around us, A Mathematical Nature Walk will delight anyone who loves nature or math or both.

John Adam presents ninety-six questions about many common natural phenomena--and a few uncommon ones--and then shows how to answer them using mostly basic mathematics. Can you weigh a pumpkin just by carefully looking at it? Why can you see farther in rain than in fog? What causes the variations in the colors of butterfly wings, bird feathers, and oil slicks? And why are large haystacks prone to spontaneous combustion? These are just a few of the questions you'll find inside. Many of the problems are illustrated with photos and drawings, and the book also has answers, a glossary of terms, and a list of some of the patterns found in nature. About a quarter of the questions can be answered with arithmetic, and many of the rest require only precalculus. But regardless of math background, readers will learn from the informal descriptions of the problems and gain a new appreciation of the beauty of nature and the mathematics that lies behind it.

Editorial Reviews

Mathematics Teacher
For teachers who are interested in seeing how what they teach might be used or for students or parents who might be interested in seeing how mathematics might be used, this is an intriguing book.
Engineering & Technology
Mathematics professor John Adam has come up with a novel combination. This book will provide anyone with a solid grounding in mathematics with enough conversation starters to keep fellow walkers' brains working as hard as their legs.
— Dominic Lenton
MAA Reviews
Adam has written a terrific book that takes his earlier work a step further. . . . [T]his is a well written guide not only to seeing our world with simplified and useful models and mathematics, but to asking good questions of what we see and then answering those questions on our own. I found the book delightful, engaging, and interesting. It's written for anyone with a calculus background, and that's all one needs. If you're looking for a fun book with a touch of complexity, this is a good one.
— David S. Mazel
Booklist
Indeed, Adam has deliberately reworked topics treated in Mathematics in Nature to make them accessible to a larger audience. Beyond insights into specific questions about nature, the general reader will find here a remarkably lucid explanation of how mathematicians create a formulaic model that mimics the key features of some natural phenomenon. Adam particularly highlights the importance in this process of solving inverse problems. Ordinary math becomes adventure.
Physics World
[A]dam's love of both nature and mathematics is obvious, and his chatty style and sense of humour—look out for the question about spontaneously combusting haystacks—enliven a book that will get readers thinking as well as itching for a pleasant stroll.
Natural History
If you are a walker, as I am, your daypack probably contains sunscreen, a poncho, a floppy hat, and a pair of binoculars. After reading this snappy guide to the mathematics of the outdoors, by John Adam, a professor of mathematics at Old Dominion University in Virginia, you might consider tossing in a programmable calculator. . . . A sharp eye and an ingenious mind are at work on every page. . . . Read this book with pencil and paper in hand. Then go forth, enjoy the view, and impress your friends.
Conservation Magazine
A catalogue of playful inquiries and their mathematical solutions.
iSquared
There are now few (if any) areas of science where mathematics does not play a role and, by extension, many of the sights and sounds of nature can be studied using mathematics. This is the motivation behind A Mathematical Nature Walk by John Adam, which considers some of the natural phenomena that might be encountered on a walk in the countryside (or even just a wander around one's own garden).
— Sarah Shepherd
Good Book Guide
[S]urprising and entertaining. . . . Adam's book is lucidly written, making it suitable for people of all ages.
Suite101.com
The dedicated reader stands a lot to gain from delving into the text and thinking hard about the problems posed. As the saying goes, 'mathematics is not a spectator sport,' so if this book is read with pencil and paper at hand, to scribble along and confirm understanding of the mathematical trains of thought—all the better.
— Philip McIntosh
Natural History - Laurence A. Marschall
[A] snappy guide to the mathematics of the outdoors. . . . A sharp eye and an ingenious mind are at work on every page. . . . Read this book with pencil and paper in hand. Then go forth, enjoy the view, and impress your friends.
Engineering & Technology - Dominic Lenton
Mathematics professor John Adam has come up with a novel combination. This book will provide anyone with a solid grounding in mathematics with enough conversation starters to keep fellow walkers' brains working as hard as their legs.
MAA Reviews - David S. Mazel
Adam has written a terrific book that takes his earlier work a step further. . . . [T]his is a well written guide not only to seeing our world with simplified and useful models and mathematics, but to asking good questions of what we see and then answering those questions on our own. I found the book delightful, engaging, and interesting. It's written for anyone with a calculus background, and that's all one needs. If you're looking for a fun book with a touch of complexity, this is a good one.
iSquared - Sarah Shepherd
There are now few (if any) areas of science where mathematics does not play a role and, by extension, many of the sights and sounds of nature can be studied using mathematics. This is the motivation behind A Mathematical Nature Walk by John Adam, which considers some of the natural phenomena that might be encountered on a walk in the countryside (or even just a wander around one's own garden).
Suite101.com - Philip McIntosh
The dedicated reader stands a lot to gain from delving into the text and thinking hard about the problems posed. As the saying goes, 'mathematics is not a spectator sport,' so if this book is read with pencil and paper at hand, to scribble along and confirm understanding of the mathematical trains of thought—all the better.
From the Publisher
"[A] snappy guide to the mathematics of the outdoors. . . . A sharp eye and an ingenious mind are at work on every page. . . . Read this book with pencil and paper in hand. Then go forth, enjoy the view, and impress your friends."—Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"Mathematics professor John Adam has come up with a novel combination. This book will provide anyone with a solid grounding in mathematics with enough conversation starters to keep fellow walkers' brains working as hard as their legs."—Dominic Lenton, Engineering & Technology

"A catalogue of playful inquiries and their mathematical solutions."Conservation Magazine

"Adam has written a terrific book that takes his earlier work a step further. . . . [T]his is a well written guide not only to seeing our world with simplified and useful models and mathematics, but to asking good questions of what we see and then answering those questions on our own. I found the book delightful, engaging, and interesting. It's written for anyone with a calculus background, and that's all one needs. If you're looking for a fun book with a touch of complexity, this is a good one."—David S. Mazel, MAA Reviews

"For teachers who are interested in seeing how what they teach might be used or for students or parents who might be interested in seeing how mathematics might be used, this is an intriguing book."Mathematics Teacher

"[A]dam's love of both nature and mathematics is obvious, and his chatty style and sense of humour—look out for the question about spontaneously combusting haystacks—enliven a book that will get readers thinking as well as itching for a pleasant stroll."Physics World

"Indeed, Adam has deliberately reworked topics treated in Mathematics in Nature to make them accessible to a larger audience. Beyond insights into specific questions about nature, the general reader will find here a remarkably lucid explanation of how mathematicians create a formulaic model that mimics the key features of some natural phenomenon. Adam particularly highlights the importance in this process of solving inverse problems. Ordinary math becomes adventure."Booklist

"If you are a walker, as I am, your daypack probably contains sunscreen, a poncho, a floppy hat, and a pair of binoculars. After reading this snappy guide to the mathematics of the outdoors, by John Adam, a professor of mathematics at Old Dominion University in Virginia, you might consider tossing in a programmable calculator. . . . A sharp eye and an ingenious mind are at work on every page. . . . Read this book with pencil and paper in hand. Then go forth, enjoy the view, and impress your friends."Natural History

"There are now few (if any) areas of science where mathematics does not play a role and, by extension, many of the sights and sounds of nature can be studied using mathematics. This is the motivation behind A Mathematical Nature Walk by John Adam, which considers some of the natural phenomena that might be encountered on a walk in the countryside (or even just a wander around one's own garden)."—Sarah Shepherd, iSquared

"[S]urprising and entertaining. . . . Adam's book is lucidly written, making it suitable for people of all ages."Good Book Guide

"The dedicated reader stands a lot to gain from delving into the text and thinking hard about the problems posed. As the saying goes, 'mathematics is not a spectator sport,' so if this book is read with pencil and paper at hand, to scribble along and confirm understanding of the mathematical trains of thought—all the better."—Philip McIntosh, Suite101.com

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400832903
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
09/12/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
264
File size:
8 MB

What People are Saying About This

Raymond Lee
John Adam's A Mathematical Nature Walk is a true gem of popular scientific writing. He adroitly does what all good science writers should do: he inspires readers first to observe and then to analyze the world outside their windows.
Raymond Lee, author of "The Rainbow Bridge"
Posamentier
Finally a book that shows the general reader how mathematics can explain the natural phenomena that we continuously encounter but rarely understand. John Adam answers questions about nature's secrets—many of which we haven't even thought to ask. This is a delightful book.
Alfred S. Posamentier, coauthor of "The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers"
Will Wilson
John Adam presents a wonderful set of mathematical inquiries into a broad range of natural phenomena. This rich book will be interesting to mathematically minded readers who are inspired by nature.
Will Wilson, Duke University
Brian Sleeman
In A Mathematical Nature Walk, John Adam encourages readers to explore everyday observations of the natural world from a mathematical point of view. The problems are presented in an engaging style and most of the mathematics is well within the grasp of beginning college students.
Brian Sleeman, University of Leeds
Neil Downie
When you see a spider's web bedecked with morning dew like strings of pearls or the lazy bends in a distant river valley, you are seeing mathematics as well as beauty. You will find equations in A Mathematical Nature Walk for the evanescent colors of the sky—as well as for why you can't fly over a rainbow. John Adam can help you see a world of algebra in a drop of water, and a Fibonacci sequence in a wild flower.
Neil Downie, author of "Vacuum Bazookas, Electric Rainbow Jelly, and 27 Other Saturday Science Projects"
Libbrecht
With a mathematician's eye and a playful wit, John Adam takes a walk through the woods and returns with stories aplenty! His narratives are about nature and how things work, about looking analytically at the world around us, and about the art of creating mathematical models. For anyone with a mathematical bent who has ever asked 'what is that?,' this book will provide an interesting read and a valuable resource.
Kenneth G. Libbrecht, author of "The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty"
Hans Christian von Baeyer
For generations, field guides to plants and animals have sharpened the pleasure of seeing by opening our minds to understanding. Now John Adam has filled a gap in that venerable genre with his painstaking but simple mathematical descriptions of familiar, mundane physical phenomena. This is nothing less than a mathematical field guide to inanimate nature.
Hans Christian von Baeyer, author of "Information: The New Language of Science"
Peter Pesic
Do not miss this memorable walk with John Adam, filled with delightful surprises that bring together nature, mathematics, and the infectious pleasure of thought, culminating in a special kind of wonder.
Peter Pesic, author of "Sky in a Bottle"

Meet the Author

John A. Adam is professor of mathematics at Old Dominion University. He is the coauthor of Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin and the author of Mathematics in Nature (both Princeton).

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A Mathematical Nature Walk 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DBrane More than 1 year ago
The author's previous book, Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World got a great review in the June/July 2005 Notices of the AMS (a publication of the American Mathematical Society, it is one of the most prestigious math journals in the country).The last sentence of the review states: "On Growth and Form (D'Arcy Thompson) is a classic; Mathematics in Nature has the potential to become one too." He recently published his third book A Mathematical Nature Walk and it is a gem. First I'll quote from the front flap. "How tall is that tree? How far away is that cloud and how heavy is it? Why are the droplets on that spider's web spaced apart so evenly? ." John Adam presents ninety-six questions about many natural phenomena. and then shows how to answer them using mostly basic mathematics. Can you weigh a pumpkin just by looking at it?" This book is less technical than Mathematics in Nature, mostly pre calculus, and some very basic calculus and simple differential equations. There's more than enough information on each of the levels. When I showed the book to my calculus students they got very excited, some said that they were going to buy it as soon as possible! At my college, for the past twenty years or so, I gave good students the opportunity to contract with me to do honors work and get honors credit for the course. This would entail doing a project, relevant to the course, not necessarily more difficult, but of interest to the student and not "run of the mill". No matter whether it was pre calculus or calculus I always had trouble finding appropriate topics. I wish I had this book years ago. Other topics of interest.. Can the shape of an egg be modeled trigonometrically? algebraically? by calculus? by geometry? How far away is the storm? How high can a tree grow? Why do some trees have tumors? How long will it take the sun to collapse? His style is conversational. 'Why can haystacks explode if they're too big?' is quintessential John Adam! I would say that this book will become a classic. I am beginning my forty sixth year of teaching and have taught at all levels from 8th grade pre-Algebra to graduate level mathematical physics. If I were an education administrator for high school math teachers (I taught high school math in New York City for thirteen years), I would mandate it as required reading. It should be a text for a course for budding math teachers. It would show the novice high school teacher and, of course, the veteran, how relatively easy math can have real life applications unlike those dumb word problems they teach in the traditional courses. I believe John Adam's book will ultimately be ranked on the same level as Polya's classic, How to Solve It.