Taming the Infinite

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From ancient Babylon to the last great unsolved problems, Ian Stewart brings us his definitive history of mathematics. In his famous straightforward style, Professor Stewart explains each major development--from the first number systems to chaos theory--and considers how each affected society and changed everyday life forever.
Maintaining a personal touch, he introduces all of the outstanding mathematicians of history, from the key Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians, via Newton and Descartes, to Fermat, Babbage and Godel, and demystifies math's key concepts without recourse to complicated formulae. Written to provide a captivating historic narrative for the non-mathematician, Taming the Infinite is packed with fascinating nuggets and quirky asides, and contains 100 illustrations and diagrams to illuminate and aid understanding of a subject many dread, but which has made our world what it is today.
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Some years ago, "new math" took the country's classrooms by storm. Based on the abstract, general style of mathematical exposition favored by research mathematicians, its goal was to teach students not just to manipulate numbers and formulas, but to grasp the underlying mathematical concepts. The result, at least at first, was a great deal of confusion among teachers, students, and parents. Since then, the negative aspects of "new math" have been eliminated and its positive elements assimilated into classroom instruction.
In this charming volume, a noted English mathematician uses humor and anecdote to illuminate the concepts underlying "new math": groups, sets, subsets, topology, Boolean algebra, and more. According to Professor Stewart, an understanding of these concepts offers the best route to grasping the true nature of mathematics, in particular the power, beauty, and utility of pure mathematics. No advanced mathematical background is needed (a smattering of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is helpful) to follow the author's lucid and thought-provoking discussions of such topics as functions, symmetry, axiomatics, counting, topology, hyperspace, linear algebra, real analysis, probability, computers, applications of modern mathematics, and much more.
By the time readers have finished this book, they'll have a much clearer grasp of how modern mathematicians look at figures, functions, and formulas and how a firm grasp of the ideas underlying "new math" leads toward a genuine comprehension of the nature of mathematics itself.

The transition from school mathematics to university mathematics is seldom straightforward. Students are faced with a disconnect between the algorithmic and informal attitude to mathematics at school, versus a new emphasis on proof, based on logic, and a more abstract development of general concepts, based on set theory. The authors have many years' experience of the potential difficulties involved, through teaching first-year undergraduates and researching the ways in which students and mathematicians think. The book explains the motivation behind abstract foundational material based on students' experiences of school mathematics, and explicitly suggests ways students can make sense of formal ideas. This second edition takes a significant step forward by not only making the transition from intuitive to formal methods, but also by reversing the process- using structure theorems to prove that formal systems have visual and symbolic interpretations that enhance mathematical thinking. This is exemplified by a new chapter on the theory of groups. While the first edition extended counting to infinite cardinal numbers, the second also extends the real numbers rigorously to larger ordered fields. This links intuitive ideas in calculus to the formal epsilon-delta methods of analysis. The approach here is not the conventional one of 'nonstandard analysis', but a simpler, graphically based treatment which makes the notion of an infinitesimal natural and straightforward. This allows a further vision of the wider world of mathematical thinking in which formal definitions and proof lead to amazing new ways of defining, proving, visualising and symbolising mathematics beyond previous expectations.
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Published on
Apr 7, 2015
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Mathematics / History & Philosophy
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.

Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?

How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.

Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.

The official book behind the Academy Award-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) saved the Allies from the Nazis, invented the computer and artificial intelligence, and anticipated gay liberation by decades--all before his suicide at age forty-one. This New York Times–bestselling biography of the founder of computer science, with a new preface by the author that addresses Turing's royal pardon in 2013, is the definitive account of an extraordinary mind and life.

Capturing both the inner and outer drama of Turing’s life, Andrew Hodges tells how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936--the concept of a universal machine--laid the foundation for the modern computer and how Turing brought the idea to practical realization in 1945 with his electronic design. The book also tells how this work was directly related to Turing’s leading role in breaking the German Enigma ciphers during World War II, a scientific triumph that was critical to Allied victory in the Atlantic. At the same time, this is the tragic account of a man who, despite his wartime service, was eventually arrested, stripped of his security clearance, and forced to undergo a humiliating treatment program--all for trying to live honestly in a society that defined homosexuality as a crime.

The inspiration for a major motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, Alan Turing: The Enigma is a gripping story of mathematics, computers, cryptography, and homosexual persecution.

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