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Language of Mathematics [Paperback]

Keith Devlin
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: 13.70 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 May 2003
"The great book of nature," said Galileo, "can be read only by those who know the language in which it was written. And this language is mathematics." In The Language of Mathematics, award-winning author Keith Devlin reveals the vital role mathematics plays in our eternal quest to understand who we are and the world we live in. More than just the study of numbers, mathematics provides us with the eyes to recognize and describe the hidden patterns of life—patterns that exist in the physical, biological, and social worlds without, and the realm of ideas and thoughts within.

Taking the reader on a wondrous journey through the invisible universe that surrounds us—a universe made visible by mathematics—Devlin shows us what keeps a jumbo jet in the air, explains how we can see and hear a football game on TV, allows us to predict the weather, the behavior of the stock market, and the outcome of elections. Microwave ovens, telephone cables, children's toys, pacemakers, automobiles, and computers—all operate on mathematical principles. Far from a dry and esoteric subject, mathematics is a rich and living part of our culture. An exploration of an often woefully misunderstood subject, The Language of Mathematics celebrates the simplicity, the precision, the purity, and the elegance of mathematics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Reissue edition (1 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805072543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805072549
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 216,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Keith Devlin is Dean of the School of Science at Saint Mary's College of California and Senior Researcher at Stanford University's center for the Study of Language and Information. A key participant in the six-part PBS television series "Life by the Numbers," he is the author of Life by Numbers; Goodbye, Descartes; Logic and Information; Mathematics: The New Golden Age; and InfoSense: Turning Information into Knowledge.

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true five star rating 2 Dec 1998
By A Customer
I never thought I would read, nevertheless enjoy, a book on math. This book is unquestionably one of the best works I have ever read on the sciences. Devlin writes in an uncannily concise and proficient style that actually makes the topic of math interesting and understandable to a lay person. Devlin intricately weaves history, mathematical concepts, and complex theories into a very readable text. (I did not think it could be done.)
The text is divided into eight sections ranging from numbers to astrophysics. While the book does build on the information offered in each chapter, it is not necessary to read the book in a linear fashion. Devlin makes it very easy to choose chapters of interest.
The first chapter deals with numbers. Ironically, we assume a lot about numbers when considering math. Devlin does an excellent job of defining what numbers are apart from the symbols we ascribe to them.
The second chapter provides a concise explanation of mathematical proofs, reason, and logic. Using his unique style, Devlin is able to cover this chapter with examples from classic math (algebra) to modern linguistic analysis. The latter is an excellent example of how Devlin applies math theories presented to natural real world examples.
Chapter 3 deals with the calculus. If you have ever asked: what is calculus used for, there is finally a concise, understandable presentation available in this chapter.
Chapter 4 refers to geometries. Devlin traces the evolution of geometries and provides a good introduction to dimensions beyond the third dimension. (These ideas are continued in Chapters 6 and 8.)
Chapter 5 is rather odd but seems to build on analyzing patterns in geometries. It treats topics like packing objects and snowflake patterns.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasic Book 5 Sep 2008
I agree with the other reviews, this is an excellent book. Even if you have no understanding of maths you will have a good grasp by the time you get to the end. If you want you can skip the working out details and just read the text, and you will still understand it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 19 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant exposition of some key areas of maths. Devlin writes in a way which is intelligible to readers with little mathematical background, and succeeds in conveying some complex maths in an easily-understood fashion. The historical background is well set out. Do not worry if you were bored or confused by maths at school: this book is truly fascinating. If you want to gain an insight into the way maths works, why maths matters, and the excitement mathematicians can feel, get this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for the inquisitive mind 8 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What I liked about this book is that Devlin explained mathematical proofs and methods using plain language, covering topics as diverse as Euclid's geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, manifolds, tessellations, calculus, probability, knot theory, Maxwell's equations, Einstein's theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, though he only touches on these last three at the end of the book.

In particular, I liked his explanation of Bayesian probabilities using 2 real-world examples, his explanation of fields and groups (including Evariste Galois' seminal discovery) and his explanation of the fundamentals of calculus. I never knew that integration actually evolved independently of Newton's and Leibniz's differential calculus, originating with a student of Archimedes, Eudoxus, and the discovery that they were inverse functions of each other was a serendipitous surprise.

Although I'm well read in science and mathematics, this book gave expositions that had previously eluded me, and it will open the eyes of people who think mathematics is an elitist sect.

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