Sunday, 3 October 2010

A Math Book for ????

I'm thinking about connections, and suddenly I come across,
"In 1972, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote an article called “Missed Opportunities.” In it, he describes how relativity could have been discovered many years before Einstein announced his findings if mathematicians in places like Göttingen had spoken to physicists who were poring over Maxwell’s equations describing electromagnetism. The ingredients were there in 1865 to make the breakthrough—only announced by Einstein some 40 years later. "

A while back I got a free copy of "The Mystery of the Prime Numbers"
by Matthew Watkins, which is lavishly illustrated with drawings by Matt Tweed. I don't know either guy, but Matthew somehow stumbled across my blog and thought I would be interested... I was, but more on that later.
So then I came across a link (sorry whoever) to an article in Seed Magazine by Marcus du Sautoy, who spends a little time with primes himself. The quote above is the opening paragraph.
Here are a couple of clips that tingled my head...
"In their search for patterns, mathematicians have uncovered unlikely connections between prime numbers and quantum physics. Will the subatomic world help reveal the elusive nature of the primes?"
Ok, Primes are mysterious and hard to figure out, and so is the nature of the universe, and everyone knows some quote about physics being written in the language of math... but linking Primes to String Theory???
So they laid a foundation:
This unexpected connection with physics has given us a glimpse of the mathematics that might, ultimately, reveal the secret of these enigmatic numbers. At first the link seemed rather tenuous. But the important role played by the number 42 has recently persuaded even the deepest skeptics that the subatomic world might hold the key to one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics."

Ok, so now we have physics, math, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to "the meaning of life, the universe, and everything". Ok, I know that this is not the first time 42 shows up in math and physics, "The angle at which light reflects off of water to create a rainbow is 42 degrees." But this is seriously heavy stuff... read the article..

Ok, so we are back to the idea of connections, and how to make them happen, and that brings me back to "The Mystery of the Prime Numbers". THIS is the book you give non-mathematicians who don't think math has any "soul". I really believe that this book would be a wonderful gift for a clever 12 year old, and I may be shortchanging clever 10 year olds in that statement (Think Christmas). This is a book about mathematical ideas that seriously tries to avoid the barrier of mathematical symbols, and that is where Matt Tweed's creative illustrations come in....... but don't be confused, this is not "baby math" or watered down math, this is Primes straight on without barriers...or at least with some of the confusing barriers removed. Ok, let me be blunt..this is the book I give my granddaughter, and the book I give my math colleges.

" By "number system" I just mean the entire sequence of counting numbers together with the usual rules for adding and multiplying them. We're going to treat this as a single entity, almost like an organism, and look it it properties, its anatomy, if you like."

They say there will be two more... Can't wait...
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