In a tantalizing blend of history and mathematics, Julian Havil takes the reader on a journey through logarithms and the harmonic series, the two defining elements of gamma, toward the first account of gamma's place in mathematics.
Introduced by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), who figures prominently in this book, gamma is defined as the limit of the sum of 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + . . . Up to 1/n, minus the natural logarithm of n--the numerical value being 0.5772156. . . . But unlike its more celebrated colleagues π and e, the exact nature of gamma remains a mystery--we don't even know if gamma can be expressed as a fraction.
Among the numerous topics that arise during this historical odyssey into fundamental mathematical ideas are the Prime Number Theorem and the most important open problem in mathematics today--the Riemann Hypothesis (though no proof of either is offered!).
Sure to be popular with not only students and instructors but all math aficionados, Gamma takes us through countries, centuries, lives, and works, unfolding along the way the stories of some remarkable mathematics from some remarkable mathematicians.
The key to the conjecture lies in elliptic curves, which may appear simple, but arise from some very deep—and often very mystifying—mathematical ideas. Using only basic algebra and calculus while presenting numerous eye-opening examples, Ash and Gross make these ideas accessible to general readers, and, in the process, venture to the very frontiers of modern mathematics.
Julian Havil explores Napier’s original development of logarithms, the motivations for his approach, and the reasons behind certain adjustments to them. Napier’s inventive mathematical ideas also include formulas for solving spherical triangles, "Napier’s Bones" (a more basic but extremely popular alternative device for calculation), and the use of decimal notation for fractions and binary arithmetic. Havil also considers Napier’s study of the Book of Revelation, which led to his prediction of the Apocalypse in his first book, A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John—the work for which Napier believed he would be most remembered.
John Napier assesses one man’s life and the lasting influence of his advancements on the mathematical sciences and beyond.
In 1878, when two brothers stole a mathematical papyrus from the ancient Egyptian burial site in the Valley of Kings, they led scholars to the earliest known occurrence of the square root of a negative number. The papyrus offered a specific numerical example of how to calculate the volume of a truncated square pyramid, which implied the need for i. In the first century, the mathematician-engineer Heron of Alexandria encountered I in a separate project, but fudged the arithmetic; medieval mathematicians stumbled upon the concept while grappling with the meaning of negative numbers, but dismissed their square roots as nonsense. By the time of Descartes, a theoretical use for these elusive square roots--now called "imaginary numbers"--was suspected, but efforts to solve them led to intense, bitter debates. The notorious i finally won acceptance and was put to use in complex analysis and theoretical physics in Napoleonic times.
Addressing readers with both a general and scholarly interest in mathematics, Nahin weaves into this narrative entertaining historical facts and mathematical discussions, including the application of complex numbers and functions to important problems, such as Kepler's laws of planetary motion and ac electrical circuits. This book can be read as an engaging history, almost a biography, of one of the most evasive and pervasive "numbers" in all of mathematics.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
Nonplussed! pays special attention to problems from probability and statistics, areas where intuition can easily be wrong. These problems include the vagaries of tennis scoring, what can be deduced from tossing a needle, and disadvantageous games that form winning combinations. Other chapters address everything from the historically important Torricelli's Trumpet to the mind-warping implications of objects that live on high dimensions. Readers learn about the colorful history and people associated with many of these problems in addition to their mathematical proofs.
Nonplussed! will appeal to anyone with a calculus background who enjoys popular math books or puzzles.