17 Equations That Changed The World by Ian Stewart
|17 Equations That Changed The World by Ian Stewart
|Category: Popular Science
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
|Summary: A detailed look at ground-breaking equations and the extent of their influence. Clearly and informatively written as always, it's well-worth a look.
|Date: February 2012
|External links: Author's website
17 Equations That Changed the World takes us through the history of mathematics, from Pythagoras through Einstein's theory of relativy and chaos theory. It highlights the most influently equations, clearly explains them, and establishes the full ranges of breakthroughs they led to.
Ian Stewart writes, as ever, with clarity and interest, and is deeply informative. He's one of those popular science authors who is a must-read whatever he writes. His work is never dumbed down, but is always accessible to an interested reader. Non-mathematical people may have an unnecessary fear of equations, but if they choose to make it past the front cover, they will be well-rewarded.
It's an excellent read, but there isn't limitless praise. It brings to mind The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments by George Johnson, which is to science as this is to math. George Johnson's book has a touch more artistry about it, playing to the experimenter's place in history as much as the experiment's place. 17 Equations takes a lighter touch with the human element, partly through choice, and partly through subject matter. This isn't a negative, but it is slightly less of a positive.
Beyond that, there's nothing to criticise. The choice of equations is an ideal mix of the known and the glad to now know. The crib sheet at the beginning of each chapter brings you up to speed even before you dive in, and serves as a useful reference point after the fact. The writing is packed with information, as well as Ian Stewart's considerable charm and enthusiasm. It's warmly recommended.
As well as the aforementioned The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments by George Johnson, Alex's Adventures In Numberland by Alex Bellos is a fantastic read about maths. Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures by Ian Stewart is also highly recommended.
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