The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty

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From the acclaimed Los Angeles Times science writer, a wise, witty, and elegant study of how math provides practical solutions to everyday problems.
 
Are the secrets of the universe written in words—or is it all about the digits? K.C. Cole follows up her paean to the power of physics, Sympathetic Vibrations, with this engaging and accessible guide to the might and majesty of mathematics. The Universe and the Teacup uses relatable examples, humorous prose, and whimsical line drawings to demonstrate math’s ability to “translate the complexity of the world into manageable patterns.”
 
Cole shows how mathematical concepts illuminate everything from human risk-taking behavior to astronomical investigation, game theory to logic problems—not to mention the very structure of the universe itself. Brimming with trivia stressing the importance of math throughout history, this is a book both math nerds and the “innumerate” everyday person can enjoy in equal measure.
 
“Cole writes clearly, simply and vividly,” noted The New York Times. “She so obviously likes mathematics, the reader can't help liking it too.” Filled with “a thousand fascinating facts and shrewd observations (Martin Gardner, Los Angeles Times), this book demonstrates how the truth and beauty of everything, from relativity to rainbows, is all in the numbers. 
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About the author

A popular science columnist for the Los Angeles Times and teacher at UCLA, K. C. Cole is a recipient of the 1995 American Institute of Physics Award for Best Science Writing.  She is also the author of the internationally bestselling The Universe and the Teacup, First You Build a Cloud, and The Hole in the Universe. Cole lives in Santa Monica, California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Jan 15, 1998
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780547546148
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / History & Philosophy
Mathematics / Probability & Statistics / General
Mathematics / Reference
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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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.
“A compelling, enjoyable, and widely accessible exploration of one of the most fundamental scientific issues of our age” (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe).
 
In The Hole in the Universe, an award-winning science writer “provides an illuminating slant on physics and mathematics by exploring the concept of nothing” (Scientific American).
 
Welcome to the world of cutting-edge math, physics, and neuroscience, where the search for the ultimate vacuum, the point of nothingness, the ground zero of theory, has rendered the universe deep, rich, and juicy. Every time scientists and mathematicians think they have reached the ultimate void, something new appears: a black hole, an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time, repulsive anti-gravity, universes that breed like bunnies. Cole’s exploration at the edge of everything is “as playfully entertaining as it is informative” (San Jose Mercury News).
 
“A strong and sometimes mind-blowing introduction to the edges of modern physics.” —Salon.com
 
“Comprising an expansive set of topics from the history of numbers to string theory, the big bang, even Zen, the book’s chapters are broken into bite-sized portions that allow the author to revel in the puns and awkwardness that comes with trying to describe a concept that no one has fully grasped. It is an amorphous, flowing, mind-bending discussion, written in rich, graceful prose. As clear and accessible as Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, this work deserves wide circulation, not just among science buffs.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
“Here we have the definitive book about nothing, and who would think that nothing could be so interesting . . . not only accessible but compelling reading.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
 
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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.

How do we reclaim our innate enchantment with the world? And how can we turn our natural curiosity into a deep, abiding love for knowledge? Frank Oppenheimer, the younger brother of the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, was captivated by these questions, and used his own intellectual inquisitiveness to found the Exploratorium, a powerfully influential museum of human awareness in San Francisco, that encourages play, creativity, and discovery—all in the name of understanding. In this elegant biography, K. C. Cole investigates the man behind the museum with sharp insight and deep sympathy. The Oppenheimers were a family with great wealth and education, and Frank, like his older brother, pursued a career in physics. But while Robert was unceasingly ambitious, and eventually came to be known for his work on the atomic bomb, Frank’s path as a scientist was much less conventional. His brief fling with the Communist Party cost him his position at the University of Minnesota, and he subsequently spent a decade ranching in Colorado before returning to teaching. Once back in the lab, however, Frank found himself moved to create something to make the world meaningful after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was inspired by European science museums, and he developed a dream of teaching Americans about science through participatory museums. Thus was born the magical world of the Exploratorium, forever revolutionizing not only the way we experience museums, but also science education for years to come. Cole has brought this charismatic and dynamic figure to life with vibrant prose and rich insight into Oppenheimer as both a scientist and an individual.
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