Slicing Pizzas, Racing Turtles, and Further Adventures in Applied Mathematics

Princeton University Press
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Have you ever daydreamed about digging a hole to the other side of the world? Robert Banks not only entertains such ideas but, better yet, he supplies the mathematical know-how to turn fantasies into problem-solving adventures. In this sequel to the popular Towing Icebergs, Falling Dominoes (Princeton, 1998), Banks presents another collection of puzzles for readers interested in sharpening their thinking and mathematical skills. The problems range from the wondrous to the eminently practical. In one chapter, the author helps us determine the total number of people who have lived on earth; in another, he shows how an understanding of mathematical curves can help a thrifty lover, armed with construction paper and scissors, keep expenses down on Valentine's Day.

In twenty-six chapters, Banks chooses topics that are fairly easy to analyze using relatively simple mathematics. The phenomena he describes are ones that we encounter in our daily lives or can visualize without much trouble. For example, how do you get the most pizza slices with the least number of cuts? To go from point A to point B in a downpour of rain, should you walk slowly, jog moderately, or run as fast as possible to get least wet? What is the length of the seam on a baseball? If all the ice in the world melted, what would happen to Florida, the Mississippi River, and Niagara Falls? Why do snowflakes have six sides?

Covering a broad range of fields, from geography and environmental studies to map- and flag-making, Banks uses basic algebra and geometry to solve problems. If famous scientists have also pondered these questions, the author shares the historical details with the reader. Designed to entertain and to stimulate thinking, this book can be read for sheer personal enjoyment.

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About the author

Robert B. Banks (1922-2002) was the author of Towing Icebergs, Falling Dominoes, and Other Adventures in Applied Mathematics (Princeton). He was professor of engineering at Northwestern University and dean of engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 2, 2012
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781400843039
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / Applied
Mathematics / Recreations & Games
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Robert B. Banks
Although we seldom think of it, our lives are played out in a world of numbers. Such common activities as throwing baseballs, skipping rope, growing flowers, playing football, measuring savings accounts, and many others are inherently mathematical. So are more speculative problems that are simply fun to ponder in themselves--such as the best way to score Olympic events.

Here Robert Banks presents a wide range of musings, both practical and entertaining, that have intrigued him and others: How tall can one grow? Why do we get stuck in traffic? Which football player would have a better chance of breaking away--a small, speedy wide receiver or a huge, slow linebacker? Can California water shortages be alleviated by towing icebergs from Antarctica? What is the fastest the 100-meter dash will ever be run?

The book's twenty-four concise chapters, each centered on a real-world phenomenon, are presented in an informal and engaging manner. Banks shows how math and simple reasoning together may produce elegant models that explain everything from the federal debt to the proper technique for ski-jumping.

This book, which requires of its readers only a basic understanding of high school or college math, is for anyone fascinated by the workings of mathematics in our everyday lives, as well as its applications to what may be imagined. All will be rewarded with a myriad of interesting problems and the know-how to solve them.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

Paul J. Nahin
What are your chances of dying on your next flight, being called for jury duty, or winning the lottery? We all encounter probability problems in our everyday lives. In this collection of twenty-one puzzles, Paul Nahin challenges us to think creatively about the laws of probability as they apply in playful, sometimes deceptive, ways to a fascinating array of speculative situations. Games of Russian roulette, problems involving the accumulation of insects on flypaper, and strategies for determining the odds of the underdog winning the World Series all reveal intriguing dimensions to the workings of probability. Over the years, Nahin, a veteran writer and teacher of the subject, has collected these and other favorite puzzles designed to instruct and entertain math enthusiasts of all backgrounds.

If idiots A and B alternately take aim at each other with a six-shot revolver containing one bullet, what is the probability idiot A will win? What are the chances it will snow on your birthday in any given year? How can researchers use coin flipping and the laws of probability to obtain honest answers to embarrassing survey questions? The solutions are presented here in detail, and many contain a profound element of surprise. And some puzzles are beautiful illustrations of basic mathematical concepts: "The Blind Spider and the Fly," for example, is a clever variation of a "random walk" problem, and "Duelling Idiots" and "The Underdog and the World Series" are straightforward introductions to binomial distributions.

Written in an informal way and containing a plethora of interesting historical material, Duelling Idiots is ideal for those who are fascinated by mathematics and the role it plays in everyday life and in our imaginations.

Robert B. Banks
Diffusion and growth phenomena abound in the real world surrounding us. Someexamples: growth of the world's population, growth rates of humans, public interest in news events, growth and decline of central city populations, pollution of rivers, adoption of agricultural innovations, and spreading of epidemics and migration of insects. These and numerous other phenomena are illustrations of typical growth and diffusion problems confronted in many branches of the physical, biological and social sciences as well as in various areas of agriculture, business, education, engineering medicine and public health. The book presents a large number of mathematical models to provide frameworks forthe analysis and display of many of these. The models developed and utilizedcommence with relatively simple exponential, logistic and normal distribution functions. Considerable attention is given to time dependent growth coefficients and carrying capacities. The topics of discrete and distributed time delays, spatial-temporal diffusion and diffusion with reaction are examined. Throughout the book there are a great many numerical examples. In addition and most importantly, there are more than 50 in-depth "illustrations" of the application of a particular framework ormodel based on real world problems. These examples provide the reader with an appreciation of the intrinsic nature of the phenomena involved. They address mainly readers from the physical, biological, and social sciences, as the only mathematical background assumed is elementary calculus. Methods are developed as required, and the reader can thus acquire useful tools for planning, analyzing, designing,and evaluating studies of growth transfer and diffusion phenomena. The book draws on the author's own hands-on experience in problems of environmental diffusion and dispersion, as well as in technology transfer and innovation diffusion.
Matt Parker
Robert B. Banks
Although we seldom think of it, our lives are played out in a world of numbers. Such common activities as throwing baseballs, skipping rope, growing flowers, playing football, measuring savings accounts, and many others are inherently mathematical. So are more speculative problems that are simply fun to ponder in themselves--such as the best way to score Olympic events.

Here Robert Banks presents a wide range of musings, both practical and entertaining, that have intrigued him and others: How tall can one grow? Why do we get stuck in traffic? Which football player would have a better chance of breaking away--a small, speedy wide receiver or a huge, slow linebacker? Can California water shortages be alleviated by towing icebergs from Antarctica? What is the fastest the 100-meter dash will ever be run?

The book's twenty-four concise chapters, each centered on a real-world phenomenon, are presented in an informal and engaging manner. Banks shows how math and simple reasoning together may produce elegant models that explain everything from the federal debt to the proper technique for ski-jumping.

This book, which requires of its readers only a basic understanding of high school or college math, is for anyone fascinated by the workings of mathematics in our everyday lives, as well as its applications to what may be imagined. All will be rewarded with a myriad of interesting problems and the know-how to solve them.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

Robert B. Banks
Diffusion and growth phenomena abound in the real world surrounding us. Someexamples: growth of the world's population, growth rates of humans, public interest in news events, growth and decline of central city populations, pollution of rivers, adoption of agricultural innovations, and spreading of epidemics and migration of insects. These and numerous other phenomena are illustrations of typical growth and diffusion problems confronted in many branches of the physical, biological and social sciences as well as in various areas of agriculture, business, education, engineering medicine and public health. The book presents a large number of mathematical models to provide frameworks forthe analysis and display of many of these. The models developed and utilizedcommence with relatively simple exponential, logistic and normal distribution functions. Considerable attention is given to time dependent growth coefficients and carrying capacities. The topics of discrete and distributed time delays, spatial-temporal diffusion and diffusion with reaction are examined. Throughout the book there are a great many numerical examples. In addition and most importantly, there are more than 50 in-depth "illustrations" of the application of a particular framework ormodel based on real world problems. These examples provide the reader with an appreciation of the intrinsic nature of the phenomena involved. They address mainly readers from the physical, biological, and social sciences, as the only mathematical background assumed is elementary calculus. Methods are developed as required, and the reader can thus acquire useful tools for planning, analyzing, designing,and evaluating studies of growth transfer and diffusion phenomena. The book draws on the author's own hands-on experience in problems of environmental diffusion and dispersion, as well as in technology transfer and innovation diffusion.
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