The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

by Manil Suri
The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

by Manil Suri


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Shortlisted for the 2023 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

An engaging and imaginative tour through the fundamental mathematical concepts—from arithmetic to infinity—that form the building blocks of our universe.

Our universe has multiple origin stories, from religious creation myths to the Big Bang of scientists. But if we leave those behind and start from nothing—no matter, no cosmos, not even empty space—could we create a universe using only math? Irreverent, richly illustrated, and boundlessly creative, The Big Bang of Numbers invites us to try.

In this new mathematical origin story, mathematician and novelist Manil Suri creates a natural progression of ideas needed to design our world, starting with numbers and continuing through geometry, algebra, and beyond. He reveals the secret lives of real and imaginary numbers, teaches them to play abstract games with real-world applications, discovers unexpected patterns that connect humble lifeforms to enormous galaxies, and explores mathematical underpinnings for randomness and beauty. With evocative examples ranging from multidimensional crochet to the Mona Lisa’s asymmetrical smile, as well as ingenious storytelling that helps illuminate complex concepts like infinity and relativity, The Big Bang of Numbers charts a playful, inventive course to existence. Mathematics, Suri shows, might best be understood not as something we invent to explain Nature, but as the source of all creation, whose directives Nature tries to obey as best she can.

Offering both striking new perspectives for math aficionados and an accessible introduction for anyone daunted by calculation, The Big Bang of Numbers proves that we can all fall in love with math.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324007036
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/20/2022
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 220,510
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Manil Suri is a distinguished mathematics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Author of three acclaimed novels, including The Death of Vishnu, he is a former contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, for which he has written several widely read pieces on mathematics. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Pope Made Me Write This Book 1

Day 1 Arithmetic

1 Setting Up the Big Bang 15

2 Games Numbers Play 22

3 More Games 32

4 Searching for their Roots 41

5 An Irrational Universe 48

6 Journey into the Imaginary 56

Day 2 Geometry

7 The Universe Needs its Space 67

8 Settling the Complexes 81

9 Fun and Games on the Plane 91

10 Two Questions about the Plane 97

11 Space or Bust 102

12 An Alternative Geometry 107

13 Crocheting Your Universe 113

14 The Fourth and Higher Dimensions 122

Day 3 Algebra

15 Outsourcing 135

16 The Joy of X 140

17 The World of Polynomials 148

18 The Y of Things 160

19 The Algebra of Distance 167

Day 4 Patterns

20 Patterns and Perfection 179

21 Nature's Soft Spot 184

22 The Golden Ratio 192

23 Nature's Relation to Math 198

24 Math and Beauty 210

25 Fractals 216

26 The Why and How of Nature's Patterns 228

Day 5 Physics

27 A Universe Run by Laws 245

28 Time and Space 254

29 The Curvature of Spacetime 264

Day 6 Infinity

30 A Finite Univrese of Numbers 275

31 Close Encounters of the Infinite Kind 280

32 The Matching Game 285

33 Battle of the Cardinalities 295

34 A Smile of Georg's Face 300

35 The End of Mathematics 307

Day 7 Emergence

36 Setting Nature Free 317

Acknowledgments 333

Notes 337

Illustration Credits 355

Index 357

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