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How Math Explains the World: A Guide to the Power of Numbers, from Car Repair to Modern Physics

How Math Explains the World: A Guide to the Power of Numbers, from Car Repair to Modern Physics
Author: James D., Jr. Stein
ISBN 13: 9780061241765
ISBN 10: 61241768
Edition: First Edition
Publisher: Smithsonian
Publication Date: 2008-04-22
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 288
List Price: $24.99

In How Math Explains the World, mathematician Stein reveals how seemingly arcane mathematical investigations and discoveries have led to bigger, more world-shaking insights into the nature of our world. In the four main sections of the book, Stein tells the stories of the mathematical thinkers who discerned some of the most fundamental aspects of our universe. From their successes and failures, delusions, and even duels, the trajectories of their innovations—and their impact on society—are traced in this fascinating narrative. Quantum mechanics, space-time, chaos theory and the workings of complex systems, and the impossibility of a "perfect" democracy are all here. Stein's book is both mind-bending and practical, as he explains the best way for a salesman to plan a trip, examines why any thought you could have is imbedded in the number π , and—perhaps most importantly—answers one of the modern world's toughest questions: why the garage can never get your car repaired on time.

Friendly, entertaining, and fun, How Math Explains the World is the first book by one of California's most popular math teachers, a veteran of both "math for poets" and Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies. And it's perfect for any reader wanting to know how math makes both science and the world tick.

Publishers Weekly

Stein, a mathematics professor at California State University, explores the application of math to problem solving in the everyday, explaining tricky concepts and developing elegant algorithms for everything from scheduling auto repair to organizing a closet. He also demonstrates the power of the solution: "We advance, both as individuals and as a species, by solving problems. As a rule of thumb, the reward for solving problems increases with the difficulty." Stein blends math history and complex theories with jokes in a seamless manner while looking into everything from quantum mechanics to voting, while still realizing the limitations of his field-"without experiments and measurement these tools mathetmatics are essentially useless"-and its more whimsical possibilities: "We do not yet have the mathematical objects needed to discuss art, or beauty, or love; but that does not mean that they do not exist." Stein's work, mathematically rigorous but with minimal equations, will appeal to both casual and serious fans of math or physics, as well as those who take keen interest in problem solving.
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