Two of the most fundamental questions asked by people are how life emerged on the Earth, and whether we are alone in the cosmos. These deeply important questions form the core of a new kind of science, one that recently has been rapidly gathering momentum: astrobiology. Lewis Dartnell explains.
I've read several of Paul Nahin's books before (see my review of Dr. Euler's fabulous formula in Plus) and this is no exception to his excellent style. The strategies of pursuit and evasion have fascinated mathematicians for centuries. One of the earliest problems was posed by Frenchman Pierre Bouger in 1732.
If you've ever watched a flock of birds flying at dusk, or a school of fish reacting to a predator, you'll have been amazed by their perfectly choreographed moves. Yet, complex as this behaviour may seem, it's not all that hard to model it on a computer. Lewis Dartnell presents a hands-on guide for creating your own simulations — no previous experience necessary.
The hero of this book is Euler's formula:
eiπ + 1 = 0
This simple equation has been widely considered through the last two centuries to be one of the most beautiful formulae of mathematics, and Nahin tells us why.
This book starts gently enough, easing us in with the unarguable 2+2 = 4. But don't let this lull you into a misplaced sense of comfort; the ride is going to get very unsettling indeed. Martínez writes with an easy-reading clarity to tackle some of the simplest, but no less profoundly important, assumptions of mathematics. We hear how over the recent history of mathematics seemingly innocuous concepts were as controversial as genetic modification or animal testing are nowadays.