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Mathematics and Physics

Mathematics and Physics

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Conversations about the Nature of the Universe

Physicist Clifford Johnson thinks that we should have more conversations about science. Science should be on our daily conversation menu, along with topics like politics, books, sports, or the latest prestige cable drama. Conversations about science, he tells us, shouldn’t be left to the experts.

This book offers the first comprehensive guide to ethics for physical scientists and engineers who conduct research. Written by a distinguished professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, the book focuses on the everyday decisions about right and wrong faced by scientists as they do research, interact with other people, and work within society. The goal is to nurture readers’ ethical intelligence so that they know an ethical issue when they see one, and to give them a way to think about ethical problems.

Brian Hayes wants to convince us that mathematics is too important and too much fun to be left to the mathematicians. Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations is his entertaining and accessible exploration of mathematical terrain both far-flung and nearby, bringing readers tidings of mathematical topics from Markov chains to Sudoku. Hayes, a non-mathematician, argues that mathematics is not only an essential tool for understanding the world but also a world unto itself, filled with objects and patterns that transcend earthly reality.

Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World

From a zebra’s stripes to a spider’s web, from sand dunes to snowflakes, nature is full of patterns underlaid by mathematical principles. In The Beauty of Numbers in Nature, Ian Stewart shows how life forms from the principles of mathematics. Each chapter in The Beauty of Numbers in Nature explores a different kind of patterning system and its mathematical underpinnings. In doing do, the book also uncovers some universal patterns—both in nature and made by humans—from the basic geometry of ancient Greece to the complexities of fractals.

How Stories Explain Computing

Picture a computer scientist, staring at a screen and clicking away frantically on a keyboard, hacking into a system, or perhaps developing an app. Now delete that picture. In Once Upon an Algorithm, Martin Erwig explains computation as something that takes place beyond electronic computers, and computer science as the study of systematic problem solving. Erwig points out that many daily activities involve problem solving. Getting up in the morning, for example: You get up, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast.

Richard Feynman was one of the most famous and important physicists of the second half of the twentieth century. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965, celebrated for his spirited and engaging lectures, and briefly a star on the evening news for his presence on the commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Feynman is best known for his contributions to the field of quantum electrodynamics.

2,600 Years of Discovery From Thales to Higgs

Humans have been trying to understand the physical universe since antiquity. Aristotle had one vision (the realm of the celestial spheres is perfect), and Einstein another (all motion is relativistic). More often than not, these different understandings begin with a simple drawing, a pre-mathematical picture of reality. Such drawings are a humble but effective tool of the physicist’s craft, part of the tradition of thinking, teaching, and learning passed down through the centuries. This book uses drawings to help explain fifty-one key ideas of physics accessibly and engagingly.

The Detection of Gravitational Waves

Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a “very interesting event” (as the cautious subject line in a physicist’s email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves.

What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us

Many books explain what is known about the universe. This book investigates what cannot be known. Rather than exploring the amazing facts that science, mathematics, and reason have revealed to us, this work studies what science, mathematics, and reason tell us cannot be revealed. In The Outer Limits of Reason, Noson Yanofsky considers what cannot be predicted, described, or known, and what will never be understood. He discusses the limitations of computers, physics, logic, and our own thought processes.

An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability

In 1824 a young Norwegian named Niels Henrik Abel proved conclusively that algebraic equations of the fifth order are not solvable in radicals. In this book Peter Pesic shows what an important event this was in the history of thought. He also presents it as a remarkable human story. Abel was twenty-one when he self-published his proof, and he died five years later, poor and depressed, just before the proof started to receive wide acclaim.

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