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In Pursuit of the Unknown

Most people are familiar with history's great equations: Newton's Law of Gravity, for instance, or Einstein's theory of relativity. But the way these mathematical breakthroughs have contributed to human progress is seldom appreciated. In In Pursuit of the Unknown, celebrated mathematician Ian Stewart untangles the roots of our most important mathematical statements to show that equations have long been a driving force behind nearly every aspect of our lives. Using seventeen of our most crucial equations--including the Wave Equation that allowed engineers to measure a building's response to earthquakes, saving countless lives, and the Black-Scholes model, used by bankers to track the price of financial derivatives over time--Stewart illustrates that many of the advances we now take for granted were made possible by mathematical discoveries. An approachable, lively, and informative guide to the mathematical building blocks of modern life, In Pursuit of the Unknown is a penetrating exploration of how we have also used equations to make sense of, and in turn influence, our world.
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Table of Contents

Why Equations? 1. The squaw on the hippopotamus 2. Shortening the proceedings 3. Ghosts of departed quantities 4. The system of the world 5. Portent of the ideal world 6. Much ado about knotting 7. Patterns of chance 8. Good vibrations 9. Ripples and blips 10. The ascent of humanity 11. Waves in the ether 12. Law and disorder 13. One thing is absolute 14. Quantum weirdness 15. Codes, communications, and computers 16. The imbalance of nature 17. The Midas formula Where Next?


Publishers Weekly "Stewart shares his enthusiasm as well as his knowledge in this tour of ground-breaking equations and the research they supported... An entertaining and illuminating collection of curious facts and histories suitable for random dipping-in or reading straight through." Kirkus Reviews "Stewart provides clear, cogent explanations of how the equations work without burdening the reader with cumbersome derivations... He gives a fascinating explanation of how Newton's laws, when extended to three-body problems, are still used by NASA to calculate the best route from Earth to Mars and have laid the basis for chaos theory. Throughout, Stewart's style is felicitous." Discover "Seemingly basic equations have enabled us to predict eclipses, engineer earthquake-proof buildings, and invent the refrigerator. In this lively volume, mathematician Ian Stewart delves into 17 equations that shape our daily existence, including those dreamed up by the likes of Einstein, Newton, and Erwin Schrodinger." Maclean's "Stewart is the finest living math popularizer-a writer who can tackle eye-spraining mathematical topics approachably, and yet dazzle hard-core nerds with new and surprising information. It is hard not to get your money's worth from him, and in a book like this he is at his best because of the very wide ground covered." Library Journal "Stewart's expertise and his well-developed style (enhanced by a nice sense of humor) make for enjoyable reading... [A] worthwhile and entertaining book, accessible to all readers. Recommended for anyone interested in the influence of mathematics on the development of science and on the emergence of our current technology-driven society." Washington Independent Review of Books "Stewart has managed to produce a remarkably readable, informative and entertaining volume on a subject about which few are as well informed as they would like to be." New York Journal of Books "Stewart is a genius in the way he conveys his excitement and sense of wonder... He has that valuable grasp of not only what it takes to make equations interesting, but also to make science cool."

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