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Infinite Powers
Cover of Infinite Powers
Infinite Powers
How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER


"Marvelous ... an array of witty and astonishing stories ... to illuminate how calculus has helped bring into being our contemporary world."—The Washington Post
From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus – how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.

Without calculus, we wouldn't have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn't have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz's brilliantly creative, down‑to‑earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it's about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number—infinity—to tackle real‑world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.

Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalized and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes "backwards" sometimes; how to make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn't miss the moon; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.

As Strogatz proves, calculus is truly the language of the universe. By unveiling the principles of that language, Infinite Powers makes us marvel at the world anew.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER


"Marvelous ... an array of witty and astonishing stories ... to illuminate how calculus has helped bring into being our contemporary world."—The Washington Post
From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus – how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.

Without calculus, we wouldn't have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn't have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz's brilliantly creative, down‑to‑earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it's about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number—infinity—to tackle real‑world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.

Infinite Powers recounts how calculus tantalized and thrilled its inventors, starting with its first glimmers in ancient Greece and bringing us right up to the discovery of gravitational waves (a phenomenon predicted by calculus). Strogatz reveals how this form of math rose to the challenges of each age: how to determine the area of a circle with only sand and a stick; how to explain why Mars goes "backwards" sometimes; how to make electricity with magnets; how to ensure your rocket doesn't miss the moon; how to turn the tide in the fight against AIDS.

As Strogatz proves, calculus is truly the language of the universe. By unveiling the principles of that language, Infinite Powers makes us marvel at the world anew.

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About the Author-
  • STEVEN STROGATZ is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world's most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for the New York Times and The New Yorker and has been a frequent guest on Radiolab and Science Friday. He is the author of Sync and The Joy of x. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2019
    A complex attempt to render calculus accessible.Strogatz (Applied Mathematics/Cornell Univ.; The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, 2013, etc.) emphasizes that "calculus is an imaginary realm of symbols and logic" that "lets us peer into the future and predict the unknown. That's what makes it such a powerful tool for science and technology." It works by breaking problems down into tiny parts--infinitely tiny--and then putting them back together. Breaking down is the work of differential calculus; putting together requires integral calculus. Early civilizations, including the Babylonians, Greeks, and Chinese, had no trouble measuring anything straight, including complex structures such as the icosahedron, but curves and movement caused problems. Thus, finding the area of a circle by converting it into a 10-sided polygon and measuring the polygon's area yields a fair approximation. A 100-sided polygon gave a more accurate result. Perfection required a polygon with an infinite number of infinitely small sides, but dealing with infinity was particularly tricky. Invented in its modern version by Newton and Leibniz in the late 17th century, calculus solved the problem. Readers who pay close attention to Strogatz's analogies, generously supplied with graphs and illustrations, may or may not see the light, but all will enjoy the long final section, which eschews education in favor of a history of modern science, which turns out to be a direct consequence of this mathematics. The best introduction to calculus remains a textbook--Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P. Thompson--published in 1910 and, amazingly, still in print. Readers who dip into Thompson will understand Strogatz's enthusiasm. His own explanations will enlighten those with some memory of high school calculus, but innumerate readers are likely to remain mystified.An energetic effort that successfully communicates the author's love of mathematics, if not the secrets of calculus itself.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2019

    For anyone who has struggled through a required calculus course, this latest book by Strogatz (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell Univ.; The Joy of X) is especially welcome. Strogatz does a great job of explaining a difficult subject, both to those in need of a refresher and those who have never taken calculus. After describing calculus's history and the people who created it, the author uses real examples, ranging from athletics to medicine, to show some of its many old, new and, potentially future applications. Most importantly, he lays out the case that calculus is fundamental to the way we live today. Simply put, without calculus, there would be no modern physics, and without physics we wouldn't have the technology that shapes our modern world. VERDICT A solid choice for readers who want to know what calculus is all about, and for teachers who wish to improve their presentation.--Harold D. Shane, Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll. Lib., CUNY

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe
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