Math

8 Books to Elevate Your Math Appreciation

Math, though a discipline all its own, is essential to most science. And it can be terribly fun, especially when applied to today’s scientific problems. For example, I am a fan of the activities and brain twisters in Matt Parker’s math book Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension. Here are eight books, new this year, that are guaranteed to grow your appreciation of mathematics.

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How to Fall Slower Than Gravity: And Other Everyday (and Not So Everyday) Uses of Mathematics and Physical Reasoning by Paul J. Nahin

 

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How to Fall Slower Than Gravity in engaging collection of intriguing problems that shows you how to think like a mathematical physicist.  In this collection of twenty-six intriguing problems, Nahin explores how mathematical physicists think. Always entertaining, the problems range from ancient catapult conundrums to the puzzling physics of a very peculiar kind of glass called NASTYGLASS–and from dodging trucks to why raindrops fall slower than the rate of gravity. (November 2018)

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Weird Math: A Teenage Genius and His Teacher Reveal the Strange Connections Between Math and Everyday Life by David Darling, Agnijo Banerjee

 

9781541644786A teenage genius and his teacher take readers on a wild ride to the extremes of mathematics.  As teen math prodigy Agnijo Banerjee and his teacher David Darling reveal, complex math surrounds us. If we think long enough about the universe, we’re left not with material stuff, but a ghostly and beautiful set of equations. Packed with puzzles and paradoxes, mind-bending concepts, and surprising solutions, Weird Math leads us from a lyrical exploration of mathematics in our universe to profound questions about God, chance, and infinity. A magical introduction to the mysteries of math, it will entrance beginners and seasoned mathematicians alike. (April 2018)

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The Logic of Miracles: Making Sense of Rare, Really Rare, and Impossibly Rare Events by László Mérő

 

9780300224153The renowned Hungarian mathematician and psychologist László Mérő explains how the wild and mild worlds (which he names Wildovia and Mildovia) coexist, and that different laws apply to each. Even if we live in an ultimately wild universe, he argues, we’re better off pretending that it obeys Mildovian laws. Doing so may amount to a self‑fulfilling prophecy and create an island of predictability in a very rough sea. Perched on the ragged border between economics and complexity theory, Mérő proposes to extend the reach of science to subjects previously considered outside its grasp: the unpredictable, unrepeatable, highly improbable events we commonly call “miracles.” (April 2018)

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Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry

 

9780393634990Hello World takes us on a tour through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the algorithms that surround us on a daily basis. Mathematician Hannah Fry reveals their inner workings, showing us how algorithms are written and implemented, and demonstrates the ways in which human bias can literally be written into the code. By weaving in relatable, real world stories with accessible explanations of the underlying mathematics that power algorithms, Hello World helps us to determine their power, expose their limitations, and examine whether they really are improvement on the human systems they replace. (September 2018)

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The Calculus Story: A Mathematical Adventure by David Acheson

 

9780198804543Calculus is the key to much of modern science and engineering. It is the mathematical method for the analysis of things that change, and since in the natural world we are surrounded by change, the development of calculus was a huge breakthrough in the history of mathematics. In The Calculus Story, David Acheson presents a wide-ranging picture of calculus and its applications, from ancient Greece right up to the present day. Drawing on their original writings, he introduces the people who helped to build our understanding of calculus. With a step-by-step treatment, he demonstrates how to start doing calculus, from the very beginning. (February 2018)

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The Prime Number Conspiracy: The Biggest Ideas in Math from Quanta by Thomas Lin

 

9780262536356These stories from Quanta Magazine map the routes of mathematical exploration, showing readers how cutting-edge research is done, while illuminating the productive tension between conjecture and proof, theory and intuition. The stories show that, as James Gleick puts it in the foreword, “inspiration strikes willy-nilly.” One researcher thinks of quantum chaotic systems at a bus stop; another suddenly realizes a path to proving a theorem of number theory while in a friend’s backyard; a statistician has a “bathroom sink epiphany” and discovers the key to solving the Gaussian correlation inequality. (November 2018)

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Mathematics of Everyday Life by Alfred S. Posamentier and Christian Spreitzer

 

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Two experienced math educators help the average reader discover not only the everyday usefulness of math but the fun that comes from mastering the basics of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and more. After reading this entertaining and instructive book, you’ll come away with a whole new awareness of how elegantly mathematics explains everyday experiences and observations–from present day items to classical art and architecture. (August 2018)

 

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Outnumbered: From Facebook and Google to Fake News and Filter-bubbles – The Algorithms That Control Our Lives by David Sumpter

 

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Outnumbered is a journey to the dark side of mathematics, from how it dictates our social media activities to our travel routes. Algorithms are running our society, and as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal has revealed, we don’t even realize how our data has been used against us. David Sumpter investigates whether mathematics is crossing dangerous lines when it comes to what we can make decisions about. (June 2018)

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