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: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 95,173
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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The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
curiousDD More than 1 year ago
I bought this to read on my NOOK, but was unhappy with the way equations were displayed (it IS a math book). It seemed that they tried to left-justify equations but sent them about 1/2 inch off the edge of the display. From the context I could usually figure out what was missing, but it was annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As has been said by the first two reviewers, the ebook version of this puts the math examples partially off the screen, rendering them illegible. One star, untill someone fixes the formatting problem that the math examples have. I've notified the publisher (but got no response). I've called B&N customer service but was told it could take 3 weeks or such to be remedied. This is the first ebook that I ever paid for. Not a good experience, B&N.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Example equations not formatted properly and fall off the edge of the page. Changed font size and turned publisher defalts on and off, still not good. Why doesn't anyone do quality check. Could be good but pretty worthless if you can't follow the examples.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it is sad that this book is getting poor reviews because of technological issues with the Nook. Hopefully these issues reflect how valuable an actual BOOK really is and how pathetically reliant our society is on technology. Go out and buy this book! Steven Strogatz is an incredible mathematician with a unique gift for taking the cold hard facts of mathematics and showing his students and readers just how beautiful the world of math really is. Whether you are a student, a lover of numbers, or even hated math in high school, you will love this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am very disappointed. I bought the version for the Nook at only a $3 discount from the paper version even though there is no cost for printing, shipping, storing, or clearing out remaindered copies. And what did I get for that? Many of the illustrations are too small to be easily understood on the Nook, and some of the mathematical symbols in the text translate to a '?' in a grey box because the Nook doesn't understand them, rendering the accompanying text meaningless unless you are already in the know. I don't think they did any editing or formatting for the digital version at all. The book itself is wonderful but I wish I paid the extra $3. And I am sure that, if I had, the profit margin on the sale would have been significantly less.
room145teacher More than 1 year ago
Buy the paperback.  You won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really want to read this book but at $14.85 I'll wait until the formattimg has been corrected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm eager to read this; the sample is quite inviting. But what is the status of the reported format issues?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book as an overview of mathematics - where it came from, how it is used (often in ways I had not recognized), and why I should care. I bought it to have as a reference and share with others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
However all suggest get paperback or from library. Will do
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun series of essays on mathematical topics. The author's take on the Hilbert Hotel was the clearest explanation of the differences between infinites I have read. I read this book on my Nook, and experienced no formatting issues; those of you "waiting for the formatting to be corrected" need wait no longer!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the book from front to back and it is worth the read. Try it for yourself and take it for a spin at your local library! You'll be glad to add it to your book collection.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would like to purchase this book for my Nook, but was put-off by the comments on formatting. As soon as the formatting is corrected I would purchase it.