Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

Steven Strogatz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-328-87998-1
Strogatz (The Joy of X), a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University, provides a reminder that calculus has practical applications and makes the field accessible to readers at all levels in this far-ranging survey. He begins with the ancient Greeks and their search for ways to calculate the areas of circles and curves by slicing them into smaller pieces. Centuries later, Galileo studied the relationship between the length and movement of pendulums. Strogatz introduces the characters behind the math, covering great partnerships (such as that of astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, whose work led to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion) and seething rivalries (such as that of Pierre de Fermat and René Descartes, who laid the groundwork for differential calculus, and the famous competition between calculus innovators Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz). Strogatz also gives plenty of real-world applications, from designing microwave ovens to plotting the course of spacecraft and fighting HIV. His discussion is clear and accessible, with plenty of diagrams, and mercifully few equations. Strogatz successfully illuminates a notoriously complex topic and this work should enhance appreciation for the history behind its innovations. Agent: Katinka Matson, Brockman Inc. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/10/2019
Release date: 04/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-358-29928-8
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