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Infinite Power How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz



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Infinite Power How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz . 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. Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, computers, or microwave ovens. We wouldn’t have radio. Or television. Or ultrasound for expectant mothers, or GPS for lost travelers. We wouldn’t have split the atom, unraveled the human genome, or put astronauts on the moon. We might not even have the Declaration of Independence. It’s a curiosity of history that the world was changed forever by an arcane branch of mathematics. How could it be that a theory originally about shapes ultimately reshaped civilization? The essence of the answer lies in a quip that the physicist Richard Feynman made to the novelist Herman Wouk when they were discussing the Manhattan Project. Wouk was doing research for a big novel he hoped to write about World War II, and he went to Caltech to interview physicists who had worked on the bomb, one of whom was Feynman. After the interview, as they were parting, Feynman asked Wouk if he knew calculus. No, Wouk admitted, he didn’t. “You had better learn it,” said Feynman. “It’s the language God talks.” For reasons nobody understands, the universe is deeply mathematical. Maybe God made it that way. Or maybe it’s the only way a universe with us in it could be, because nonmathematical universes can’t harbor life intelligent enough to ask the question. In any case, it’s a mysterious and marvelous fact that our universe obeys laws of nature that always turn out to be expressible in the language of calculus as sentences called differential equations. Such equations describe the difference between something right now and the same thing an instant later or between something right here and the same thing infinitesimally close by. The details differ depending on what part of nature we’re talking about, but the structure of the laws is always the same. To put this awesome assertion another way, there seems to be something like a code to the universe, an operating system that animates everything from moment to moment and place to place. Calculus taps into this order and expresses it.

Infinite Power How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz cover the following topics.

  • Introduction
    Infinity
    The Man Who Harnessed Infinity
    Discovering the Laws of Motion
    The Dawn of Differential Calculus
    The Crossroads
    The Vocabulary of Change
    The Secret Fountain
    Fictions of the Mind
    The Logical Universe
    Making Waves
    The Future of Calculus
    Conclusion
    Acknowledgments
    Illustration Credits
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index
    Sample Chapter from JOY OF X
    Buy the Book
    About the Author
    Connect with HMH

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