Most popular books about science, and even about mathematics, tiptoe around equations as if they were something to be hidden from the reader's tender eyes. Dana Mackenzie starts from the opposite premise: He celebrates equations. No history of art would be complete without pictures. Why, then, should a history of mathematics--the universal language of science--keep the masterpieces of the subject hidden behind a veil?
The Universe in Zero Words tells the history of twenty-four great and beautiful equations that have shaped mathematics, science, and society--from the elementary (1+1=2) to the sophisticated (the Black-Scholes formula for financial derivatives), and from the famous (E=mc2) to the arcane (Hamilton's quaternion equations). Mackenzie, who has been called "a popular-science ace" by Booklist magazine, lucidly explains what each equation means, who discovered it (and how), and how it has affected our lives.
Illustrated in color throughout, the book tells the human and often-surprising stories behind the invention or discovery of the equations, from how a bad cigar changed the course of quantum mechanics to why whales (if they could communicate with us) would teach us a totally different concept of geometry. At the same time, the book shows why these equations have something timeless to say about the universe, and how they do it with an economy (zero words) that no other form of human expression can match.
The Universe in Zero Words is the ultimate introduction and guide to equations that have changed the world.
|Publisher:||Princeton University Press|
|Product dimensions:||9.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Dana Mackenzie is a frequent contributor to Science, Discover, and New Scientist, and writes the biennial series What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences for the American Mathematical Society. In 2012, he received the prestigious Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. He has a PhD in mathematics from Princeton and was a mathematics professor for thirteen years before becoming a full-time writer.
Table of Contents
Preface 6Introduction: The Abacist versus the Algorist 10Part One: Equations of Antiquity 161.Why we believe in arithmetic: the world's simplest equation 202.Resisting a new concept: the discovery of zero 263.The square of the hypotenuse: the Pythagorean theorem 304.The circle game: the discovery of π 405.From Zeno's paradoxes to the idea of infinity 466.A matter of leverage: laws of levers 52Part Two: Equations in the age of exploration 567.The stammerer's secret: Cardano's formula 608.Order in the heavens: Kepler's laws of planetary motion 689.Writing for eternity: Fermat's Last Theorem 7410.An unexplored continent: the fundamental theorem of calculus 8011.Of apples, legends . . . and comets: Newton's laws 9012.The great explorer: Euler's theorems 96Part Three: Equations in a promethean age 10413.The new algebra: Hamilton and quaternions 10814.Two shooting stars: group theory 11415.The geometry of whales and ants: non-Euclidean geometry 12216.In primes we trust: the prime number theorem 12817.The idea of spectra: Fourier series 13418.A god's-eye view of light: Maxwell's equations 142Part Four: Equations in our own time 15019.The photoelectric effect: quanta and relativity 15420.From a bad cigar to Westminster Abbey: Dirac's formula 16421.The empire-builder: the Chern-Gauss-Bonnet equation 17422.A little bit infinite: the Continuum Hypothesis 18223.Theories of chaos: Lorenz equations 19424.Taming the tiger: the Black-Scholes equation 204Conclusion: What of the future? 214Acknowledgments 218Bibliography 219Index 222