The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

by Steven Strogatz


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“Delightful . . . easily digestible chapters include plenty of helpful examples and illustrations. You'll never forget the Pythagorean theorem again!”Scientific American

Many people take math in high school and promptly forget much of it. But math plays a part in all of our lives all of the time, whether we know it or not. In The Joy of x, Steven Strogatz expands on his hit New York Times series to explain the big ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations.

Whether he is illuminating how often you should flip your mattress to get the maximum lifespan from it, explaining just how Google searches the internet, or determining how many people you should date before settling down, Strogatz shows how math connects to every aspect of life. Discussing pop culture, medicine, law, philosophy, art, and business, Strogatz is the math teacher you wish you’d had. Whether you aced integral calculus or aren’t sure what an integer is, you’ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544105850
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 101,751
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

STEVEN STROGATZ is a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s RadioLab. He is the author of Sync and The Calculus of Friendship, the story of his thirty-year correspondence with his high school math teacher.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1 Numbers

1 From Fish to Infinity 3

An introduction to numbers, pointing out their upsides (they're efficient) as well as their downsides (they're ethereal)

2 Rock Groups 7

Treating numbers concretely-think rocks-can make calculations less baffling.

3 The Enemy of My Enemy 15

The disturbing concept of subtraction, and how we deal with the fact that negative numbers seem so … negative

4 Commuting 23

When you buy jeans on sale, do you save more money if the clerk applies the discount after the tax, or before?

5 Division and Its Discontents 29

Helping Verizon grasp the difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents

6 Location, Location, Location 35

How the place-value system for writing numbers brought arithmetic to the masses

Part 2 Relationships

7 The Joy of x 45

Arithmetic becomes algebra when we begin working with unknowns and formulas

8 Finding Your Roots 51

Complex numbers, a hybrid of the imaginary and the real, are the pinnacle of number systems

9 My Tub Runneth Over 59

Turning peril to pleasure in word problems

10 Working Your Quads 67

The quadratic formula may never win any beauty contests, but the ideas behind it are ravishing.

11 Power Tools 75

In math, the function of functions is to transform.

Part 3 Shapes

12 Square Dancing 85

Geometry, intuition, and the long road from Pythagoras to Einstein

13 Something from Nothing 93

Like any other creative act, constructing a proof begins with inspiration.

14 The Conic Conspiracy 101

The uncanny similarities between parabolas and ellipses suggest hidden forces at work.

15 Sine Qua Non 113

Sine waves everywhere, from Ferris wheels to zebra stripes

16 Take It to the Limit 121

Archimedes recognized the power of the infinite and in the process laid the groundwork for calculus.

Part 4 Change

17 Change We Can Believe In 131

Differential calculus can show you the best path from A to B, and Michael Jordan's dunks help explain why.

18 It Slices, It Dices 139

The lasting legacy of integral calculus is a Veg-O-Matic view of the universe.

19 All about e 147

How many people should you date before settling down? Your grandmother knows-and so does the number e.

20 Loves Me, Loves Me Not 155

Differential equations made sense of planetary motion. But the course of true love? Now that's confusing.

21 Step Into the Light 161

A light beam is a pas de deux of electric and magnetic fields, and vector calculus is its choreographer.

Part 5 Data

22 The New Normal 175

Bell curves are out. Fat tails are in.

23 Chances Are 183

The improbable thrills of probability theory

24 Untangling the Web 191

How Google solved the Zen riddle of Internet search using linear algebra

Part 6 Frontiers

25 The Loneliest Numbers 201

Prime numbers, solitary and inscrutable, space themselves apart in mysterious ways

26 Group Think 211

Group theory, one of the most versatile parts of math, bridges art and science

27 Twist and Shout 219

Playing with Möbius strips and music boxes, and a better way to cut a bagel

28 Think Globally 229

Differential geometry reveals the shortest route between two points on a globe or any other curved surface

29 Analyze This! 237

Why calculus, once so smug and cocky, had to put itself on the couch

30 The Hilbert Hotel 249

An exploration of infinity as this book, not being infinite, comes to an end

Acknowledgments 257

Notes 261

Credits 307

Index 309

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