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Seventeen Equations that Changed the World [Paperback]

Ian Stewart
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

From Newton's Law of Gravity to the Black-Scholes model used by bankers to predict the markets, equations, are everywhere - and they are fundamental to everyday life.

In Seventeen Equations that Changed the World, acclaimed mathematician Ian Stewart sets out seventeen groundbreaking equations that have altered the course of human history. He explores how Pythagoras's Theorem led to GPS and SatNav; how logarithms are applied in architecture; why imaginary numbers were important in the development of the digital camera, and what is really going on with Schrödinger's cat.

Entertaining, surprising and vastly informative, Seventeen Equations that Changed the World is a highly original exploration - and explanation - of life on earth.

Now available in paperback, this is the another brilliant and accessible popular science classic from the writer who brought you the Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities and Hoard of Mathematical Treasures.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846685311
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846685316
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 193,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Professor Ian Stewart is the author of many popular science books. He is the mathematics consultant for the New Scientist and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. He was awarded the Michael Faraday Medal for furthering the public understanding of science, and in 2001 became a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Product Description


Praise for The Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities:

'Stewart has a genius for explanation ... Find a comfortable chair for some holiday puzzling: mathematics doesn't come more entertaining than this.

(New Scientist)

Stewart has served up the instructive equivalent of a Michelin-starred tasting menu (Guardian)

His wondrous world of worked-out maths and joined-up thinking is radical and even romantic (Ian Finlayson Times)

Interesting and authoritative (BBC Focus)

Book Description

A unique history of humanity told through its seventeen defining equations; from Pythagoras to Calculus.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Andrew Johnston VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Stephen Hawking wrote A Brief History of Time with only a single equation, accepting that more might "scare the punters off". Bill Bryson wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything with neither equations nor pictures. Ian Stewart is therefore being very brave writing a popular science book which explains the mathematical basis for our modern world, unashamedly focusing on the key equations themselves.

That said, the equations are used more as milestones than intensively studied subjects. This is not a "book full of maths", and each chapter is largely a textual exploration around the subject starring the featured equation, explaining what it means, and what it led to.

The scope is vast, from Pythagoras through to the underpinnings of quantum theory, chaos and derivatives trading, taking in key scientific developments and their mathematical explanations along the way. Stewart does a remarkable job of compacting this scope into just 17 chapters and about 300 pages.

If you're a skilled mathematician you will gloss over the maths and still take value from the following discussions. If, however, your maths is more limited or, like mine, rather rusty, you'll find you don't need to follow all the mathematical details. You don't need to really understand about grads, divs and curls, for example, to appreciate the similarity in "shape" between the key equations in several different areas of science. The author does a very fine job of both explaining this structure, and also where the reader must understand, and where detailed understanding is less important.

Some of the explanations are quite complex, especially where Stewart is exploring the most recent applications of older ideas.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging book on a difficult subject 10 Mar 2012
By D. Bird
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The difficulty with a book devoted to the important equations is that there is a lot of very complex mathematics which underpins those equations. To understand a lot of the equations in this book it would be helpful to know something about calculus or other higher level maths. Since nowadays you can do an A level in Physics without studying calculus it seems that this book can only be aimed at undergraduate students or people who have studied these interesting areas. Nevertheless, this book is a great inspiration to those who have an understanding of maths and want to develop it further beyond what they know.

These equations have had a remarkable impact on our lives and our understanding of the universe so it is great that someone is willing to sit down and explain them to us in a way that is not too abstract and technical. Like with most popular science books it is not important that the reader understand all the logical implications of maths, but to get some understanding of the general nature of these equations. When trying to understand these equations we have to start from somewhere and this book is a good place to start.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read 21 April 2012
By J.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am not a mathematician but have really enjoyed this book. Some parts are quite challenging but well worth trying to get your head round.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be on school syllabuses 5 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When learning Maths at secondary school in the UK, one learns theorems, equations, mathematical methods, learns how to apply them, answers questions on them in class and in exams and stops there. Maths done. Finished.

Ian Stewart sees this gap between the Maths people know and the uses of this Maths both historically and in our present-day societies. An example is his chapter on logarithms. Many have heard of logarithms and know the basic logarithmic rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. What Stewart does, as he does with the other 16 equations, formulas and mathematical ideas, is to give the historical development of logarithms, describes how they function, describe how they are useful and describes their various important applications in our daily lives.

Stewart is a great ambassador for Maths and has done a great deal to make the subject seem less stuffy and more approachable to the reader. If students were introduced to the applications, meanings and ideas behind the Maths they are taught at school at an earlier age via Stewart's book then maybe there would be a greater passion developed amongst adolescents to study it further and realise its importance in understanding the world around us.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable ramble 17 Aug 2012
By DannyMc
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Britain will I should declare but I have a degree in mathematics so my review is likely to be coloured by that. This book takes you through 17 equations, giving a short introduction to the equations, a description of why they are important and then for each one a lovely rambling story of occasions where the equation might be important or higher was discovered with a little bit of mathematical history thrown in. Like many popular books on mathematics the narrative often brings you to the point of deepening your understanding, but then pulls away. So from the book was a little disappointing. However I would recommend that for anyone who has an interest in mathematics but maybe not much training, and who wants to improve their mathematical literacy. The best thing about book is the broad range of topics covered in the various chapters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on how mathematical insights affect the real world
This is a book which takes some major mathematical equations and explains how they have affected the development of our world, from Pythagoras's theorem to the Black-Scholes... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. F. Cayley
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves
Ian Stewart has been in the forefront of popular mathematics writing for over 20 years. In that time I would say that most of his books have been good books, especially the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andrew Dalby
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent handling of some difficult concepts
As a graduate electrical engineer of some years standing many of the chapters were like a trip down memory lane and made me realise how much I had forgotten. Read more
Published 5 months ago by T. Mowat
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
I found the books chapters and introductory texts very good but pretty soon they went right over my head (not good at maths) thought this might help it didn't. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Graham
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!
I am very disappointed by this book. I was expecting something much better. I do not want to write two more words.
Published 9 months ago by P. Birmingham
3.0 out of 5 stars It's good, but...
This is a good book. It's a thought-provoking alternative view of the history of science with a perspective showing the way that progress has been supported by mathematics. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Stephen
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
It's a great and interesting book, if you are interesting about the sources of the equations you have ever learnt, I will recommend it.
Published 10 months ago by wu
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book by this author
Another excellent book by Ian Stewart. Accurate, informative, well-written and accessible to non-mathematicians. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Roy Boylan
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice and decent book
A very good book, teaches you a very good understanding of all the equations, I like it a lot, would definitely recommend!!!!!
Published 10 months ago by K. Mahmood
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Bought this on kindle for my elderly husband and the paperback version for my grandson. Both appear to be intrigued by the content.
Published 11 months ago by Golden Oldie
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