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.
By combining the mathematical history of extrema with contemporary examples, Paul J. Nahin answers these intriguing questions and more in this engaging and witty volume. He shows how life often works at the extremes--with values becoming as small (or as large) as possible--and how mathematicians over the centuries have struggled to calculate these problems of minima and maxima. From medieval writings to the development of modern calculus to the current field of optimization, Nahin tells the story of Dido's problem, Fermat and Descartes, Torricelli, Bishop Berkeley, Goldschmidt, and more. Along the way, he explores how to build the shortest bridge possible between two towns, how to shop for garbage bags, how to vary speed during a race, and how to make the perfect basketball shot.
Written in a conversational tone and requiring only an early undergraduate level of mathematical knowledge, When Least Is Best is full of fascinating examples and ready-to-try-at-home experiments. This is the first book on optimization written for a wide audience, and math enthusiasts of all backgrounds will delight in its lively topics.
Nahin brings probability to life with colorful and amusing historical anecdotes as well as an electrifying approach to solving puzzles that illustrates many of the techniques that mathematicians and scientists use to grapple with probability. He looks at classic puzzles from the past--from Galileo's dice-tossing problem to a disarming dice puzzle that would have astonished even Newton--and also includes a dozen challenge problems for you to tackle yourself, with complete solutions provided in the back of the book.
Nahin then presents twenty-five unusual probability puzzlers that you aren't likely to find anywhere else, and which range in difficulty from ones that are easy but clever to others that are technically intricate. Each problem is accompanied by an entertaining discussion of its background and solution, and is backed up by theory and computer simulations whenever possible in order to show how theory and computer experimentation can often work together on probability questions. All the MATLAB® Monte Carlo simulation codes needed to solve the problems computationally are included in the book.With his characteristic wit, audacity, and insight, Nahin demonstrates why seemingly simple probability problems can stump even the experts.
How fast can you travel from London to Paris? How do scientists calculate the energy of an atomic bomb explosion? How do you kick a football so it stays in the air and goes a long way downfield? Nahin begins with simpler problems and progresses to more challenging questions, and his entertaining, accessible, and scientifically and mathematically informed explanations are all punctuated by his trademark humor. Readers are presumed to have some background in beginning differential and integral calculus. Whether you simply have a personal interest in physics' influence in the world or you're an engineering and science student who wants to gain more physics know-how, this book has an intriguing scenario for you.
In Praise of Simple Physics proves that if we look carefully at the world around us, physics has answers for the most astonishing day-to-day occurrences.
Popular-math writer Paul Nahin challenges readers to solve twenty-one difficult but fun problems, from determining the odds of coin-flipping games to figuring out the behavior of elevators. Problems build from relatively easy (deciding whether a dishwasher who breaks most of the dishes at a restaurant during a given week is clumsy or just the victim of randomness) to the very difficult (tackling branching processes of the kind that had to be solved by Manhattan Project mathematician Stanislaw Ulam). In his characteristic style, Nahin brings the problems to life with interesting and odd historical anecdotes. Readers learn, for example, not just how to determine the optimal stopping point in any selection process but that astronomer Johannes Kepler selected his second wife by interviewing eleven women.
The book shows readers how to write elementary computer codes using any common programming language, and provides solutions and line-by-line walk-throughs of a MATLAB code for each problem.
Digital Dice will appeal to anyone who enjoys popular math or computer science. In a new preface, Nahin wittily addresses some of the responses he received to the first edition.
Nahin looks at how the art of number-crunching has changed since the advent of computers, and how high-speed technology helps to solve fascinating conundrums such as the three-body, Monte Carlo, leapfrog, and gambler's ruin problems. Along the way, Nahin traverses topics that include algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus, number theory, differential equations, Fourier series, electronics, and computers in science fiction. He gives historical background for the problems presented, offers many examples and numerous challenges, supplies MATLAB codes for all the theories discussed, and includes detailed and complete solutions.
Exploring the intimate relationship between mathematics, physics, and the tremendous power of modern computers, Number-Crunching will appeal to anyone interested in understanding how these three important fields join forces to solve today's thorniest puzzles.