17 Equations That Changed the World
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Though history books are littered with the exploits of kings and queens, invasions and civil wars, and diseases and natural disasters, mathematical equations are rarely mentioned as a prime mover of human progress. This is unfair. As celebrated mathematician Ian Stewart aptly argues, 17 key equations have profoundly shaped the course of human civilization for thousands of years, paving the way for major developments in mathematics, science, philosophy, and technology.
Pythagoras’ Theorem, for instance, led to surveying, navigation, and—more recently—special and general relativity. Logarithms (invented in the early 17th century by John Napier and improved by Henry Briggs), allowed us to calculate the movement of the planets, the rate of radioactive decay, and the psychophysics of human perception. The Wave Equation is one of the most important equations in physics and is crucial for engineers studying the vibrations in vehicles and the response of buildings to earthquakes. And the equation at the heart of Information Theory, devised by Claude Shannon, is the basis of digital communication today.
Also discussing Newton’s Law of Gravity, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and Schrödinger’s Equation, In Pursuit of the Unknown locates these 17 equations in history, elucidating the mathematical and philosophical thought necessary for each equation’s discovery. None of these equations emerged in a vacuum, Stewart shows; each drew, in some way, on past equations and the thinking of the day.
The story of the ascent of humanity, told through 17 equations, In Pursuit of the Unknown is a vivid reminder of the power of math and the myriad ways it changed—and is still changing—the world.
Hardcover Book : 352 pages
Publisher: Basic Books, Inc. ( March 13, 2012 )
Item #: 13-573490
Product Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 inches
Product Weight: 21.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)