Number-Crunching: Taming Unruly Computational Problems from Mathematical Physics to Science Fiction

Princeton University Press
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How do technicians repair broken communications cables at the bottom of the ocean without actually seeing them? What's the likelihood of plucking a needle out of a haystack the size of the Earth? And is it possible to use computers to create a universal library of everything ever written or every photo ever taken? These are just some of the intriguing questions that best-selling popular math writer Paul Nahin tackles in Number-Crunching. Through brilliant math ideas and entertaining stories, Nahin demonstrates how odd and unusual math problems can be solved by bringing together basic physics ideas and today's powerful computers. Some of the outcomes discussed are so counterintuitive they will leave readers astonished.

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.

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About the author

Paul J. Nahin is the author of many best-selling popular math books, including Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quilt, Digital Dice, Chases and Escapes, Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula, When Least Is Best, and An Imaginary Tale (all Princeton). He is professor emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire.
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Additional Information

Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 8, 2011
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Computers / Computer Engineering
Computers / Data Processing
Computers / General
Computers / Programming / General
Mathematics / Discrete Mathematics
Mathematics / General
Science / General
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Content Protection
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Eligible for Family Library

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What does quilting have to do with electric circuit theory? The answer is just one of the fascinating ways that best-selling popular math writer Paul Nahin illustrates the deep interplay of math and physics in the world around us in his latest book of challenging mathematical puzzles, Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quilt. With his trademark combination of intriguing mathematical problems and the historical anecdotes surrounding them, Nahin invites readers on an exciting and informative exploration of some of the many ways math and physics combine to create something vastly more powerful, useful, and interesting than either is by itself.

In a series of brief and largely self-contained chapters, Nahin discusses a wide range of topics in which math and physics are mutually dependent and mutually illuminating, from Newtonian gravity and Newton's laws of mechanics to ballistics, air drag, and electricity. The mathematical subjects range from algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus to differential equations, Fourier series, and theoretical and Monte Carlo probability. Each chapter includes problems--some three dozen in all--that challenge readers to try their hand at applying what they have learned. Just as in his other books of mathematical puzzles, Nahin discusses the historical background of each problem, gives many examples, includes MATLAB codes, and provides complete and detailed solutions at the end.

Mrs. Perkins's Electric Quilt will appeal to students interested in new math and physics applications, teachers looking for unusual examples to use in class--and anyone who enjoys popular math books.

Coming to grips with C++11 and C++14 is more than a matter of familiarizing yourself with the features they introduce (e.g., auto type declarations, move semantics, lambda expressions, and concurrency support). The challenge is learning to use those features effectively—so that your software is correct, efficient, maintainable, and portable. That’s where this practical book comes in. It describes how to write truly great software using C++11 and C++14—i.e. using modern C++.

Topics include:

The pros and cons of braced initialization, noexcept specifications, perfect forwarding, and smart pointer make functionsThe relationships among std::move, std::forward, rvalue references, and universal referencesTechniques for writing clear, correct, effective lambda expressionsHow std::atomic differs from volatile, how each should be used, and how they relate to C++'s concurrency APIHow best practices in "old" C++ programming (i.e., C++98) require revision for software development in modern C++

Effective Modern C++ follows the proven guideline-based, example-driven format of Scott Meyers' earlier books, but covers entirely new material.

"After I learned the C++ basics, I then learned how to use C++ in production code from Meyer's series of Effective C++ books. Effective Modern C++ is the most important how-to book for advice on key guidelines, styles, and idioms to use modern C++ effectively and well. Don't own it yet? Buy this one. Now".
-- Herb Sutter, Chair of ISO C++ Standards Committee and C++ Software Architect at Microsoft

Some probability problems are so difficult that they stump the smartest mathematicians. But even the hardest of these problems can often be solved with a computer and a Monte Carlo simulation, in which a random-number generator simulates a physical process, such as a million rolls of a pair of dice. This is what Digital Dice is all about: how to get numerical answers to difficult probability problems without having to solve complicated mathematical equations.

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.

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.

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