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The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from…

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

by Steven Strogatz

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4551834,004 (3.92)11

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This book was an excellent read. It it was fun engaging and accessible even for those who haven't studied mathematics in 4 years or 15 years. ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
Quite basic, a bit too easy for my taste, but rather entertaining nonetheless; the best part were the notes at the end - lots of great suggestions for further reading. ( )
  bulgarianrose | Mar 13, 2018 |
I wish I could have read this book during that hell year of first year university, when I barely passed calculus despite devoting more time to studying it then the other 4 subjects combined (or maybe it just seemed like that -- very long nights in the library, writing out reams of papers of formulae, the table strewn with my hair and tears).
Now sufficient time has passed and, like childbirth, I forget the pain and remember only those good moments, the eureka! ones.
This isn't a book for geeks and nerds, coz they already get this stuff. But for the rest of us who might still be curious, it is just as advertised in the blurb.

One of my favourites was the explanation of the quadratic formula. I learned how to solve it, but never understood "...the cleverness packed into that porcupine of symbols." He says that "The quadratic formula is the Rodney Dangerfield of algebra. Even though it's one of the all-time greats, it don't get no respect." He then goes on to provide and illustrate the history and concept of the equation with elegant passages such as, "The upshot is that x² and 10x are now moving gracefully as a couple, rather than stepping on each other’s toes, by being paired within the single expression (x 5)². That’s what will soon enable us to solve for x."

And then there's this excerpt from the discussion of π, and infinity to the rescue:
"What’s so charming about this calculation is the way infinity comes to the rescue. At every finite stage, the scalloped shape looks weird and unpromising. But when you take it to the limit—when you finally get to the wall—it becomes simple and beautiful, and everything becomes clear. That’s how calculus works at its best."
"This approach is known as the method of exhaustion because of the way it traps the unknown number pi between two known numbers that squeeze it from either side. The bounds tighten with each doubling, thus exhausting the wiggle room for pi."

This man loves math, and the reader can't help being caught up in the passionate and well-written explanations. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
very basic math book; if you have a decent background in math, you are probably underwhelmed by this. However, I got some really good pointers to other, more involved books ( )
  Frederic_Schneider | Jan 23, 2016 |
According to the preface, this book is "a guided tour through the elements of math, from preschool to grad school, for anyone out there who'd like to have a second chance at the subject." The author also indicates that he he is trying to teach everything "starting with 1+1=2 and going as far as we can." Well, he doesn't quite meet that lofty goal. In reality, the book is a collection of very short essays, each highlighting a different mathematical concept or formula. The essays are fun, accessible and interesting, and illustrated with helpful diagrams. There were a few instances where I wasn't able to understand the nuts and bolts of a formula, but I could still understand his explanation of the concept. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the mysteries of math, served up in bite-sized pieces. Best of all, he references The Housekeeper and the Professor in chapter 2. ( )
  SylviaC | Nov 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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This book shares an ISBN with Fragmentos para una historia del cuerpo humano by Michel Feher.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0547517653, Hardcover)

Guest Review by Janna Levin

Janna Levin

Janna Levin is a Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Barnard College of Columbia University. She has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of space time. She is the author of the popular-science book, How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/Bingham prize. Janna was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow (2012).

I loved this beautiful book from the first page.

Mathematicians are in a peculiar predicament. Mathematical beauty is patent to them. And in the perception of that beauty is pleasure, is joy. But that pleasure is not easily shared. Mathematical beauty eludes many others, or even most others.

Steven Strogatz wants to share that joy. He sees the beauty of pi and 0 and infinity. But he doesn’t want to impose his impressions on you or to report on the view from his privileged perspective. He wants you to see it too. He doesn’t want to argue that mathematics is creative and beautiful. He wants you to experience the visceral pleasure for yourself.

To that end, he disassembles mathematics as a discipline, both feared and revered, and reassembles mathematics as a world, both accessible and magical.

If you have never braved this grand world, put away your math anxiety, your preconceptions. This book is the most welcoming entree to mathematical thinking that I know of.

If you have braved this grand world, you will find a collection of gems, new ways of inhabiting the domain. Strogatz links historical anecdotes to new insights, as though the math itself is sculptural, composed of forms that are simultaneously familiar and ethereal. The logic seems effortless so that each module snaps into its complement with a gratifying click.

This book is a rebuttal to the accusation that mathematical abstraction is cold or inhuman. Mathematics is no more intrinsically cold or inhuman than language. And Strogatz lends a warmth and humanity to both.

The Joy of x is, well, a joy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:50 -0400)

"In 2010, award-winning professor Steven Strogatz wrote a series for the New York Times online called "The Elements of Math." It was hugely popular: Each piece climbed the most emailed list and elicited hundreds of comments. Readers begged for more, and Strogatz has now delivered. In this fun, fast-paced book, he offers us all a second chance at math. Each short chapter of The Joy of X provides an "Aha!" moment, starting with why numbers are helpful, and moving on to such topics as shapes, calculus, fat tails, and infinity. Strogatz explains the ideas of math gently and clearly, with wit, insight, and brilliant illustrations. Assuming no knowledge, only curiosity, he shows how math connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture and current events. For example, did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Strogatz is the math teacher you wish you'd had, and The Joy of X is the book you'll want to give to all your smart and curious friends. "--… (more)

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