A mathematical sightseeing tour of the natural world from the author of THE MAGICAL MAZE
Why do many flowers have five or eight petals, but very few six or seven? Why do snowflakes have sixfold symmetry? Why do tigers have stripes but leopards have spots?
Mathematics is to nature as Sherlock Holmes is to evidence. Mathematics can look at a single snowflake and deduce the atomic geometry of its crystals; it can start with a violin string and uncover the existence of radio waves. And mathematics still has the power to open our eyes to new and unsuspected regularities - the secret structure of a cloud or the hidden rhythms of the weather. There are patterns in the world we are now seeing for the first time - patterns at the frontier of science, yet patterns so simple that anybody can see them once they know where to look.
Defining mathematics as a system of thought for recognizing and exploiting patterns, Scientific American math columnist Stewart takes readers on an exciting, lucid voyage of discovery as he investigates patterns of form, number, shape and movement in the world around us. His examples range from water dripping slowly from a tap to the symmetries of molecules, viruses and galaxies and from a snail's spiral shell to biological evolution and the dynamics of solar systems. Making forays into the history of mathematics and the role of mathematics in human culture, Stewart gives the reader an uncanny feel for the way mathematicians think and provides a succinct yet remarkably broad overview extending from the invention of numbers to unsolved problems that bedevil contemporary mathematicians and cosmologists. His elegant narrative concludes with a look at today's emerging sciences of chaos and complexity, which reveal that nature's seeming anarchy is bound by rules. Both novices and advanced students will find this an enlightening and rewarding exploration. QPBC triple main selection, Library of Science dual main selection, BOMC alternate.